[Federal Register Volume 75, Number 186 (Monday, September 27, 2010)]
[Notices]
[Pages 59323-59325]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2010-24103]


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DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION

Federal Transit Administration


Early Scoping for the Alternatives Analysis of the North Corridor 
Transit Project in Metropolitan Seattle

AGENCY: Federal Transit Administration, DOT.

ACTION: Early Scoping Notice.

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SUMMARY: The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) and the Central Puget 
Sound Regional Transit Authority (Sound Transit) issue this early 
scoping notice to advise other agencies and the public that they intend 
to explore alternatives for improving transit service between Northgate 
in Seattle and Lynnwood, in King and Snohomish counties, Washington. 
The early scoping is being conducted within the context of the Council 
on Environmental Quality's regulations for complying with the National 
Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and is part of a planning Alternatives 
Analysis (AA) required by Title 49 United States Code (U.S.C.) 5309 to 
analyze the potential for a fixed guideway alternative to be 
implemented as an FTA-assisted major capital transit investment. The AA 
process results in the selection or confirmation of a locally preferred 
alternative which is the proposed action. The early scoping notice is 
intended to invite public comments on the scope of the AA study, 
including the transportation problems to be addressed, a range of 
alternatives, the transportation and community impacts and benefits to 
be considered, the capital and operating costs, the financial plans and 
other factors that the public and agencies believe should be considered 
in analyzing alternatives. If preparation of an environmental impact 
statement (EIS) is warranted following completion of the planning AA, a 
notice of intent to prepare an EIS will be published. This early 
scoping process is intended to support the future NEPA scoping process. 
Public meetings and the range of alternatives currently identified to 
address the project's purpose are described below.

DATES: Three public scoping meetings and one agency scoping meeting to 
accept comments will be held on the following dates and locations:

Public Meetings

    North Seattle: October 7, 2010. Ingraham High School, 1819 N. 135th 
St., Seattle, 98133.
    Lynnwood: October 12, 2010. Lynnwood Convention Center, 3711 196th 
St., SW., Lynnwood, 98036.

[[Page 59324]]

    Shoreline: October 14, 2010. Shoreline Conference Center, 18560 1st 
Ave., NE., Shoreline, 98155.
    All public meetings will be from 6 to 8:30 p.m.

Agency Meeting

    Seattle: October 13, 2010, 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. Sound Transit offices, 
401 S. Jackson St., Seattle, 98104.
    Invitations to the interagency scoping meeting will be sent to 
appropriate Federal, state, local, and tribal governmental units.
    In addition to the supplemental information provided below, 
information on the AA will be provided at the public meetings, which 
will also provide opportunities for spoken or written comments. 
Information is also available on Sound Transit's Web site at: http://www.soundtransit.org/NorthHCT. Written scoping comments are requested 
by October 25, 2010 and can be sent or e-mailed to the address below, 
submitted at the public meetings, or provided via the online comment 
form available at http://www.soundtransit.org/NorthHCT.

ADDRESSES: Roger Iwata, North Corridor Project, Sound Transit, 401 S. 
Jackson Street, Seattle, WA 98104-2826, or by e-mail to 
roger.iwata@soundtransit.org.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: John Witmer, Community Planner, 
Jackson Federal Building, 915 Second Avenue, Suite 3142, Seattle, WA 
98174; Phone: (206) 220-7954; e-mail: John.Witmer@dot.gov.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: 

Early Scoping

    As defined by law, alternatives analysis (AA) is the first step of 
the New Starts project development process. AA is the local forum for 
evaluating the costs, benefits, and impacts of a range of 
transportation alternatives designed to address mobility problems and 
other locally-identified objectives in a defined transportation 
corridor, and for determining which particular investment strategy 
should be advanced for more focused study and development. For AA 
studies which may result in the local selection of a project eligible 
for FTA New Starts or Small Starts funding, the AA further serves as 
the process for development of the technical information necessary to 
support a candidate project's entry into New Starts preliminary 
engineering. Early scoping for the North Corridor project is being 
conducted in support of NEPA requirements and in accordance with the 
Council on Environmental Quality's regulations and guidance for 
implementing NEPA. See 40 CFR 1501.2 through 8, which encourage federal 
agencies to initiate NEPA early in their planning processes. Early 
scoping allows the scoping process to begin as soon as there is enough 
information to describe the proposal so that the public and relevant 
agencies can participate effectively. This is particularly useful in 
situations when a proposed action involves a broadly defined corridor 
with an array of modal and alignment alternatives under consideration.
    This early scoping notice is intended to generate public comments 
on the scope of the planning AA, including the purpose and need for the 
project, a range of alternatives, the financial plans, and the 
environmental, transportation and community impacts and benefits to be 
considered.

The North Corridor and the Regional Transit System

    The North Corridor is approximately eight to nine miles long 
depending on routing. Starting at Northgate in north Seattle and ending 
in Lynnwood, the corridor generally follows Interstate 5 (I-5), which 
is the major north-south route through Washington State and serves a 
large commuter market traveling between Snohomish and King Counties and 
the City of Seattle. The corridor is within a geographically 
constrained urban area that lies between the Puget Sound to the west 
and Lake Washington to the east, which limits transportation options. 
This is one of the densest urban areas in the Pacific Northwest and 
comprises one of the region's most productive markets for transit.
    Sound Move, the first phase of regional transit investments, was 
approved and funded by voters in 1996. Sound Transit is now completing 
the development of Sound Move, which includes light rail, commuter rail 
and regional express bus infrastructure and service, including the 
Central Link light rail system between Northgate, the University of 
Washington, downtown Seattle, Tukwila and SeaTac. In 2009, Sound 
Transit began light rail operations between downtown Seattle and 
SeaTac. Link light rail north from downtown Seattle to Capitol Hill and 
the University of Washington is now under construction and is scheduled 
to open in 2016. The final section of Central Link light rail from the 
University of Washington to Northgate is about to enter final design 
with operation to begin in 2020.
    In 2004, Sound Transit initiated planning for the second phase of 
investment to follow Sound Move. This work included updating Sound 
Transit's Long-Range Plan and associated environmental review. 
Following several years of system planning work to detail, evaluate, 
and prioritize the next round of regional transit system expansion, 
voters in 2008 authorized funding for the extension of the regional 
light rail system in the North Corridor as part of the Sound Transit 2 
(ST2) Plan. The ST2 Plan also includes an East Link light rail line 
from downtown Seattle to Bellevue and Redmond to the east, and from 
SeaTac to Federal Way to the south.

Transportation Purpose of the North Corridor Project

    The purpose of the project is to improve transit service from 
Seattle north into Snohomish County by:
    (1) Providing reliable, rapid, and efficient two-way, all-day 
transit service of sufficient capacity to meet the existing and 
projected demand between the communities and activity centers located 
in the North Corridor and the other urban centers in the central Puget 
Sound area by providing a mobility alternative to travel on congested 
roadways and improved connections to the regional multimodal 
transportation system;
    (2) Supporting North Corridor communities' and the region's land 
use, transportation and economic development vision, which promotes the 
well-being of people and communities, ensures economic vitality and 
preserves a healthy environment; and
    (3) Supporting the long-range vision, goals, and objectives for 
transit service established by Sound Transit's Long-Range Plan for high 
quality regional transit service connecting major activity centers in 
King, Pierce and Snohomish counties.
    The project is needed to:
     Meet the rapidly growing transportation needs of the 
corridor and the region's future residents and workers by increasing 
mobility, access, and transportation capacity to and from regional 
growth and activity centers in the North Corridor and the rest of the 
region, as called for in the region's adopted plans, including the 
Puget Sound Regional Council's VISION 2040 and Transportation 2040, as 
well as related county and city comprehensive plans.
     Address the problems of increasing and unreliable travel 
times for transit users in the North Corridor, who are now dependent on 
the corridor's highly congested roadway and high occupancy vehicle 
systems.
     Address overcrowding facing current and future North 
Corridor transit riders due to insufficient

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capacity of the infrastructure that supports the current transit 
system.
     Provide an alternative to automobile trips on I-5 and SR 
99, the two primary highways serving the corridor, which are unreliable 
and over capacity throughout significant portions of the day.
     Implement the long-range vision for regional transit 
service established by Sound Transit's Long Range Plan, with a transit 
investment that supports economic vitality, preserves the environment, 
preserves communities, and allows for the further extension of regional 
transit north to Everett.
     Ensure long-term regional mobility, multimodal 
connectivity, and convenience for North Corridor citizens and 
communities, including travel-disadvantaged residents and low income 
and minority populations.
     Provide the transit infrastructure needed to support the 
development of Northgate and Lynnwood as designated regional growth 
centers providing housing, employment, public services, and multimodal 
transportation connections.
     Help support the environmental and sustainability goals of 
the state and region, including state regulations setting goals for 
reducing annual per capita vehicle miles traveled by 2050, in 
accordance with RCW 47.01.440, and the reduction of greenhouse gas 
emissions (Limiting Green House Gas Emissions, RCW Chapter 702.35).

Alternatives

    In developing the ST2 Plan, Sound Transit defined a light rail 
alignment that helped establish the ridership potential and costs for 
the transit improvements in the North Corridor. The alignment was 
assumed to be entirely elevated primarily along I-5. The project 
elements included a light rail guideway, track, and systems extending 
approximately 8.5 miles north from Northgate Station to Lynnwood 
Transit Center. After leaving Northgate Station, the alignment followed 
the east side of I-5 to about 48th Avenue W. in Snohomish County and 
then crossed to the west side of I-5 to enter Lynnwood Transit Center. 
Four new stations were anticipated at NE. 145th Street, NE. 185th 
Street, SW., 236th Street, and the Lynnwood Transit Center (terminal 
station), all sized to accommodate 4-car trains. Park-and-ride 
structures of 500 stalls each would be provided at NE 145th Street, 
NE., 185th Street, and Lynnwood Transit Center.
    As part of the AA and in accordance with FTA guidance for New Start 
projects, Sound Transit will explore alternative mode, alignment, 
station, and design configurations for improved transit in the North 
Corridor. All alternatives will be compared to a ``No-Build'' 
alternative, which represents the future transportation system through 
the year 2030 without North Corridor transit improvements, and a 
Transportation Systems Management (TSM) alternative, which will examine 
methods for improving transit in the North Corridor without a new fixed 
guideway. Potential elements of a TSM alternative could include more 
frequent bus service, new or expanded park-and-ride capacity, or 
freeway or arterial transit priority improvements.
    Sound Transit is inviting comments on the alternative transit 
modes, alignments, station locations, and design configurations to be 
studied, as well as comment on proposed evaluation measures to be used 
to compare alternatives. Routes that may be considered follow portions 
of State Route 99, the Interurban Trail, Interstate 5 and 15th Avenue 
NE. The definition of these alternatives will reflect a range of high 
and low cost capital improvements, including non-guideway options which 
can serve as a ``baseline'' for measuring the merits of higher level 
investments. Measures for evaluating the relative merits of 
alternatives will be identified, as will technical methodologies for 
generating the information used to support such measures; these will 
typically include disciplines such as travel forecasting, capital and 
operations and maintenance costing, and environmental and land use 
analyses. Finally, costs, benefits, and impacts of each alternative are 
developed and evaluated, funding strategies are analyzed, and a locally 
preferred alternative (LPA) is affirmed to be advanced for further 
development.
    At the conclusion of the AA process, Sound Transit and the FTA 
anticipate narrowing the range of alternatives for further evaluation 
in a draft environmental impact statement (EIS), if warranted, 
potentially including identification of a locally preferred 
alternative. If the resulting range of alternatives involves the 
potential for significant environmental impacts requiring an EIS, a 
Notice of Intent to prepare an EIS will be published in the Federal 
Register, and public and agency comment on the scope of the EIS will be 
invited and considered at that time.

    Issued on: September 17, 2010.
Linda Gehrke,
Deputy Regional Administrator.
[FR Doc. 2010-24103 Filed 9-24-10; 8:45 am]
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