Snohomish County light rail planning.

Snohomish County is kicking off planning for Sound Transit 3 light rail stations planned at Ash Way Park-and-Ride, Mariner Park-and-Ride, and (provisionally) at the intersection of SR-99 and Airport Road. The Airport Road station would only be built if funds were available after the other stations were complete. Despite being unincorporated, these areas are some of the most densely populated tracts in Snohomish County. Planners are looking for feedback on items including land use, station access connections, and alignments in a online survey, and your input could help improve the stations and shape strong multimodal communities around them.

By 2024, light rail will extend to the Lynnwood Transit Center, around which the City of Lynnwood is planning a new city center. The passage of ST3 in 2016 secured the further extension of Link to Everett, picking up Ash Way, Mariner, and Paine Field along the way. The Everett extension is expected by 2036. Since Ash Way, Mariner, and Airport Road are in unincorporated areas, Snohomish County will be handling the station area planning (rather than a municipality within the county). This presents a big opportunity for residents to have a say in the land use plan.

Mariner and Ash Way Park-n-Ride Stations

Three “Swift” bus lines will connect to Link light rail in Snohomish county. (Snohomish County)

At 164th Street, Ash Way will offer connections to the Swift Orange Line, which is planed to begin service in 2023. Two miles south of Ash Way, the Lynnwood City Council recently approved a development agreement for an 18-story apartment building near the juncture of I-5 and I-405 and the future West Alderwood Mall Link station. The building will be the third tallest in Snohomish County after the Key Bank Tower and Providence Hospital in Everett. Additionally, a large senior housing project and a workforce housing building recently opened nearby.

Cosmos Development has 350 apartments planned for a Toy R Us site east of Alderwood Mall.

Located at 128th Street, Mariner is already adjacent to several large apartment buildings and will be the connection point to the Swift Green Line, a rapid bus line that will debut in 2019 between Canyon Park in Bothell and Boeing Field.

Strong regional housing demand is affecting Snohomish County. Regionwide, rents have increased 48% in just five years by Apartment Insights’ numbers, even as Snohomish and King County rents dipped this year as regional population growth and therefore demand lessened right as regional housing production, particularly in Seattle, ramped up. Even so, Snohomish County remains one of the more affordable places to live in the metropolitan area, with an average rent of $1,366 across apartment types.

SR-99 Development Dreams
The stars mark Link stations. The area between Mariner Way and the provisional Airport Road station include some of the densest tracts in Snohomish County. The brown tracts have more than 10,000 people per square mile.  (ArcGis 2012 Population Density Map)

The provisional SR-99 station presents some promising development opportunities. Presently a parking crater, the intersection could anchor an urban mixed-use neighborhood if suburban style businesses redevelop, such as the Home Depot (and its gigantic parking lot) and some car dealerships and car rental lots, for example.

SR-99 and Airport Road station area include an enormous parking lot belonging to Home Depot. (Snohomish County)

Snohomish County policymakers were thinking along those transit-oriented development lines when they implemented a rezone increasing housing density along the unincorporated portion of Evergreen Way (SR-99) corridor. County Executive Dave Somers signed legislation raising height limits to 75 feet along Evergreen Way and upping the density limit from 22 dwellings per acre to 58 dwellings per acre. The City of Edmonds had already done similarly just to the south in 2017. Despite its roots as car-dominated  space lined with parking and drive-thru retail, many people are envisioning the SR-99 corridor as a center of dense walkable development, from Seattle urbanists to Everett boosters.

The multifamily capacity increases were focused around SR-99.

Even though Link light rail is mostly tracking the I-5 corridor, it appears the SR-99 corridor is poised to get the lion’s share of housing growth. That’s why the provisional station at SR-99 and Airport Road could be so important as a convenient transfer point between Swift Blue Line BRT and light rail. The dogleg to Paine Field was controversial when Sound Transit acquiesced to Snohomish County’s demands–in hopes of boosting dreams of turning the sleepy airstrip into the region’s second major airport–because it increased both projected cost and travel times end-to-end.

Snohomish County is accepting feedback in an online open house through July 23rd. Comments can be given in a number of ways, including an interactive map that ties comments to the geographic area on which they are focused. There’s also a more traditional questionnaire, and comments can be emailed to I encourage you to comment and ask for safe connections for pedestrians and bicyclists and plenty of opportunities for more people to call the neighborhoods around the stations home.

Edmonds Plans For Urban District On SR-99

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Doug Trumm is publisher of The Urbanist. An Urbanist writer since 2015, he dreams of pedestrianizing streets, blanketing the city in bus lanes, and unleashing a mass timber building spree to end the affordable housing shortage and avert our coming climate catastrophe. He graduated from the Evans School of Public Policy and Governance at the University of Washington in 2019. He lives in East Fremont and loves to explore the city on his bike.