On Wednesday, KEXP provided comments to Sound Transit as part of the regional transportation agency’s public comment process regarding the West Seattle and Ballard Light Rail Expansion project. KEXP offered its comments as a positive contribution to the important and valuable process of bringing light rail to Seattle Center and the Uptown neighborhood. Our letter was directly informed by staff expertise rooted in the technical aspects of our building, its studio walls and our live-music programming, the input of an engineering firm retained to consult KEXP during this work and our experience mitigating the effects of the multi-year project to construct Climate Pledge Arena next door. The goal of our comments is to help inform Sound Transit’s staff as they work to further refine the laudable work to deliver light rail to our community.
Unfortunately, construction of the station at the preferred location as detailed in the Draft Environmental Impact Statement - at Seattle Center on Republican St. - would render our facility unusable, potentially forcing our permanent relocation. Sound Transit’s preferred location for a Seattle Center light rail stop is directly adjacent to and underneath our building. The true scope and scale of the significant impacts of construction and ongoing operation will not be known until well after a final decision regarding station location is made, but potential impacts include:
• Studio spaces rendered unusable for a half-decade or more due to digging and construction a mere 20 feet below our building and 8 feet from studio walls
• Open public facilities and free live performances enjoyed by thousands of annual visitors no longer viable due to noise and vibration
• Access to the area and the building for musicians, staff, and guests made difficult or impossible
KEXP operates 24/7, recording and publishing music discovery content that serves millions of listeners in the Pacific Northwest and around the world. Our studios were purpose-built just seven years ago to help achieve our mission to enrich lives by championing music and discovery. These studios are particularly sensitive to noise and vibration – even after many have gone through a recent upgrade to withstand the significant noise and vibration related to the construction of Climate Pledge Arena. A multi-year relocation due to construction would be a loss for KEXP, but more significantly a loss for the hundreds of thousands of annual visitors and millions of listeners we serve via our Seattle Center location, and the millions of visitors who come to Seattle Center every year to experience art, music, sports and culture.
KEXP is optimistic in its commitment to serve as a partner in welcoming light rail to Seattle Center and the Uptown neighborhood. The expansion of light rail in our region is critical for mitigating climate change and supporting the transition from single-occupancy vehicles to reliable and accessible mass transit. The future of light rail will help further our mission of welcoming visitors from all communities for attending arts, cultural, entertainment and sports events at Seattle Center. Light rail expansion is also an opportunity to pursue creation of affordable, transit-oriented housing in Uptown as a component of a new station. The creation of affordable housing – particularly housing for working-class arts and culture workers – should be a priority when considering the new station for Seattle Center, the region’s foremost arts and culture hub.
We encourage our community to learn more about our technical comments to Sound Transit as they concern technical aspects of mitigating noise and vibration impacts, access to the arts organizations that we are proud to operate alongside at Seattle Center and the ability to offer the necessary operations inherent in supporting live events at our facility. This update here is intended as a general overview of our feedback to Sound Transit and the earnest motivations for offering these comments so that we may continue to serve as a partner in supporting the expansion of light rail in our region.