Seattle Approves Monorail Alignment

SEATTLE – By an 8-1 vote, the Seattle City Council this month approved the route alignment for the Seattle Monorail Project’s Green Line, moving the voter-approved transit project a step closer to becoming a reality.

“This is a huge accomplishment for the Council, for the Monorail Project and for the City,” said Council President Jan Drago, who co-chaired the Monorail Committee and noted that in the past year the Council has held 21 committee of the whole meetings and four public hearing dedicated to the monorail. “I don’t want to be part of another generation that fails to provide adequate mass transit in this City.”

“Every major transportation project kicks up some dust – some would call this a Saharan sandstorm,” said Councilmember Nick Licata, the other co-chair of the Monorail Committee. “But once the winds die down the monorail will be a winner because it is a project the citizens of Seattle are building and we will control it.”

While the SMP can begin some work on private property it has acquired as a result of this vote, it cannot begin work on public rights-of-way and will not be able to obtain other permits until the Council approves a transit way agreement, which it began consideration of today. In addition to the transit way agreement, which stipulates conditions under which the monorail can operate on or above public rights-of-way, a separate Seattle Center agreement is needed that will spell out compensation and other considerations for use of land at the Seattle Center.

Finally, the monorail will not be allowed to go forward until final financial assurances are met after construction and operation bids are received later this summer.

Today’s action, however, did specify where the monorail would run when built. Among its provisions:

  • Seattle Center – Monorail will traverse Seattle Center at heights up to 65 feet
  • Second Avenue – Monorail must operate at least 14 feet from property lines (one foot allowance each way) along Second Avenue downtown, except where the route turns onto and off of Second Avenue
  • California Avenue SW – Monorail must operate at least 10 feet from property lines along California Avenue SW in West Seattle
  • Harrison Street – Monorail must operate at least 10 feet from property lines along Harrison Street in Lower Queen Anne
  • Station locations – Monorail may stop at up to 19 stations along the route, including stations near the King Street train station, at Fifth Avenue and Stewart Street (where a pedestrian bridge to Westlake Center is still an option) and a horizontal station at Elliott Street and Mercer Street
  • Operations Center – Monorail Operations Center will be located near 15th Avenue West and West Armory Way in the Interbay neighborhood.

Not all the Council discussion on the monorail was praise.

“It is delicious irony that we are approving the monorail on the same day we are proclaiming Science Fiction Day,” said Councilmember Richard Conlin in reference to a Council proclamation alluding to this week’s opening of the Science Fiction Museum. “Citizens were deeply divided on the monorail vote. My hope was that as the details on the alignment and financial issues were reviewed citizens would become more unified. This has not happened. For a project this significant there is still deep division in our community.” Conlin cast the lone dissenting vote.

“A majority of our citizens want us to get on with this project – they want a viable mass transit system that effectively links with our bus system, light rail and bicycle routes,” said Councilmember Peter Steinbrueck. After losing his bid to keep the monorail from traveling through Seattle Center, Steinbrueck said he would work hard to ensure the minimal impact of the monorail to the Center and other neighborhoods. “This is a milestone today, but it is not a green light yet.”

“This is the first chapter in a very tough process,” said Councilmember Jim Compton. “The hard work is ahead of us. The numbers have to work, and I don’t know if they will. I hope they will because I am a supporter of building the monorail, but we will scrutinize the finances of this project very carefully.”

“I still have concerns about this project,” said Councilmember Richard J. McIver in voting for the alignment. “The financial feasibility will determine whether it lives or dies. This is a grassroots project, let’s hope it’s not the weed.”