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Wednesday, March 17, 2004 - Page updated at 12:00 A.M.

Proposed monorail route takes a new turn in Sodo

By Mike Lindblom
Seattle Times staff reporter

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Seattle monorail officials last night proposed changing the Green Line route through Sodo so that it would cost less to build, though it would take trains longer to reach downtown.

Seattle School District has offered to share the front entrance to its Sodo headquarters with the new monorail, whose cars would swoosh past the superintendent's corner office.

Seattle Monorail Project board members voted last night to seize the opportunity, which could save millions of dollars and quench a political wildfire.

"I think that's extremely magnanimous of The School Board and the school district to work with the community, to take something that has a greater impact on their building," said monorail Chairman Tom Weeks.

The proposed Green Line monorail, subject to approval of a "transit-way agreement" by the City Council, would now follow South Lander Street between Third and First Avenues, instead of taking an unpopular diagonal route. The Lander alignment spares the Tiles For Less store on First, which would have been displaced.

However, the Lander route introduces a pair of right-angle turns that would slow every train trip by 25 seconds.

Travel times from West Seattle to downtown already were expected to be one to three minutes slower, for a total of 20-½ minutes from Morgan Junction to the Pike Place Market, because of proposed single-track construction on parts of the line.

When voters approved a citywide monorail tax in 2002, the plan showed the line hugging Lander. But last summer, the district said a turn across its property at the John Stanford Center for Educational Excellence "will not be accepted," in part because trains would have passed within six feet of corner offices.

In response, monorail executives announced the diagonal route in November, but it presented new problems: Tiles for Less spent $1 million in renovations, while property owner Henry Liebman warned the monorail agency it would pay several million dollars to acquire the station site there. Sodo Business Association President Mike Peringer also opposed the diagonal route, while owners of the nearby Bloxom fruit-shipping business said elevated tracks would block sunlight into its offices.

A diagonal layout also would require an expensive 400-foot-long bridge over Burlington Northern Santa Fe tracks and a column that displaced part of a building. "I think our staff didn't fully understand the complications of constructing there when they made that recommendation," Weeks said Monday.

To make the Lander route appealing for the school district, Kevin Raymond, the monorail government-affairs manager, has suggested positioning the track 25 feet from the building and keeping the columns away from truck traffic.

Mike Lindblom: 206-515-5631


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