The BRT project will negatively impact the Lake Forest Park community not only during the two years of construction, but also after the project is completed in 2028. Sound Transit weighs costs and benefits with respect to improvements in mass transit but does not anticipate improvements in non-bus traffic with this project (see note 1). I use and support public transportation and look forward to improvements, but like most of my neighbors, I also use my car for trips that are not convenient with the bus, like trips to the grocery store. There are more retired age people in Lake Forest Park than in the other cities affected by the project (see note 2), so fewer of our residents will be taking the bus to work. Lake Forest Park may get younger and more densely populated in the future but it’s hard to see Sound Transit’s projection of 8,900 522 riders by 2040 – that would be a 2,000% increase.
Ridership on the 522 is still down 66% from pre-Covid times. When you consider 522 boardings in Lake Forest Park, it becomes clear that LFP residents are much less likely to use the 522 than those in Kenmore and Bothell. It makes no sense to build a stadium-sized bus station at 165th since bus boardings at 165th are only 14% of the number at other Lake Forest Park stops and the major stop should be at Town Center which is relatively close. For those who occasionally took the 522 Express to zoom down the freeway to downtown, that trip will be longer after this devasting, costly project is finished.
Sound Transit has elected to postpone the 300-stall parking garage in Town Center until 2044, though it's a core component of their SEPA traffic analysis to support commuter parking. What about the parking demand that led to the inclusion of a 300 -stall facility? Now that the garage is postponed, where will those cars park? Considering the pressure to park at Town Center and in the neighborhood, shouldn’t the 2021 APPENDIX H Transportation Technical Memorandum of the SEPA be re-opened? That analysis seems completely invalid by the postponement of the parking garage.
Despite the environmental damage, noise, and other impacts we shouldn’t discount the overall aesthetic impact. The green, tree-lined gateway to our city will be replaced with a concrete corridor, nearly a mile-long, plagued by graffiti.
Sound Transit is charged with evaluating aesthetic impacts and in there 2021 SEPA Visual and Aesthetics report they say:
“…the combination of mature tree removal from foreground views and the installation of extensive retaining walls along SR 522 (between 38th Avenue NE and a location north of NE 165th Street) would reduce the natural harmony of the project corridor”
“…in Lake Forest Park, specifically in the vicinity of NE 165th Street, the combination of tall retaining walls and the removal of characteristic tall trees in the foreground could be perceived as less compatible with the existing visual character, and residents of Lake Forest Park have expressed high sensitivity to tree removal. Therefore, on SR 522 in Lake Forest Park, adverse visual impacts would result at locations where both large retaining walls would be installed and tall conifer trees would be removed.”
The Lake Forest Park segment is mostly residential, while the Kenmore and Bothell segments are mostly commercial. Only Lake Forest Park has adverse impacts noted in the SEPA report.
Sound Transit plans to move over 90,000 tons of material during construction. This material will be hauled by 4,700 large dump trucks. Those 4,700 dump trucks will add to the traffic congestion. Detours have been identified in the 90% ST drawings that will slow down vehicle traffic and move the traffic through our narrow neighborhood streets. Detours are planned along 37th, 147th, 39th, 165th and 41st North of 165th. On top of that, Bothell Way and 145th will be restricted to one lane in either direction for extended periods during the two-year construction period, though 2021 plans call for lane closures primarily during non-peak times. Sidewalks will be closed and right-of-way drivers will be required to enter and exit their properties with right turns. With few alternate routes and recently increased tolling on the 520 bridge expect a lot of frustrated drivers in our community!
It is not yet clear where trucks, equipment, and materials will be staged but it will be desirable for Sound Transit to stage as close to the construction as possible and Town Center is certainly a viable site. This would greatly reduce Town Center parking and potentially affect Town Center businesses, which in turn could reduce city tax revenues. Aside from the traffic problems during construction, there’s the noise and dust of construction. Though plans are to mitigate noise and dust, you can’t move 90,000 tons of material and build 4,000 feet of high retaining walls without noise and dust.
The two-way left turn lane from 153rd to 165th will be eliminated, preventing left turns at 38th and 39th and, making those who live along Bothell Way turn right into and out of their properties and forcing a huge increase in turn traffic at 165th. An increase in side street traffic will reduce pedestrian safety in areas without sidewalks. The decision to forego LFP parking garage until 2044 will mean commuters will park in our neighborhood on narrow streets that already lack width for emergency vehicles when cars are carelessly parked on both sides.