North Seattle neighbors say power poles will be an 'eyesore'

SEATTLE -- Neighbors near Haller Lake want to hit the brakes on a Sound Transit light rail project that could plant giant-sized power poles on their block.

Leading the charge is Sarah Benki-Nugent, who for the past eight years has called the Haller Lake area her home. Now Benki-Nugent is trying to protect the neighborhood from having giant power poles planted on her street.

"I think it will lower our property value," she said. "It will be horrible to have to look at a giant steel tower everyday."

Sound Transit wants to move the transmission lines bordering the Northgate Mall to the other side of Interstate 5 to make way for the incoming light-rail line. Benki-Nugent says the public notices that went out omitted key details.

"There's no mention of 13-story poles that are three and four feet around," she said. "A pole like that is just going to change the way the neighborhood looks."

Sound Transit spokesperson Bruce Gray says the lines have to be moved because they will interfere with future light-rail operations.

"If you've got power lines stacked above train lines, any time you need to work on the power lines you've got to shut down the train," Gray explained.

Right now, the poles along North 115th Street are about 45 feet tall. The proposed poles would triple that height, making them taller than two of the Seattle Art Museum's "Hammering Man" sculptures stacked atop each other.

"This is not the thing for a residential neighborhood," said Fred Crary, who lives along 115th.

Not every neighbor agrees, including Kari Strong, who moved to Haller Lake six and a half years ago.

"It's not a big bother," Strong said. "It's not like land I use or anything. And like I said, we've got telephone poles everywhere. What's the difference in a little higher ones?"

Sound Transit says they are taking this input seriously and think they can chop the pole heights -- and make them look less conspicuous.

"We've heard a lot of feedback, and we think we're going to be coming back with some better news in the next couple of months," Gray said.

Sound Transit is still working out the revised dimensions in their effort to scale back the poles. The agency points out that this project stands to benefit everyone, once trains start running and wisk passengers past all the traffic congestion through town.