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Congregation concerned proposed Sound Transit light rail route would threaten Lynnwood church

Alderwood Community Church sits in the path of a proposed light rail track.

LYNNWOOD, Wash. — A recent sermon at Alderwood Community Church focused on the fact that "life isn't easy."

The congregation is living that truth right now.

"We've gone through all kinds of emotions," said Wyatt Martin. "There's been some heartbreak in thinking what it would mean for our congregation to have to move."

Martin grew up in the church. Decades later, he's now its lead pastor, and he doesn't like what he sees coming down the tracks.

"Hearing that light rail was coming near our property was exciting. Hearing that light rail was coming through our property was less so," said Martin.

Sound transit is considering three routes for light rail through Lynnwood. One of them would run directly through the church's six-acre campus, forcing it to be torn down.

"We have people who have been here their entire lives, seventy years even, their kids, their grandkids. There's a heritage here that really matters. It's hard to imagine our church anywhere else, to be honest," said the pastor.

In addition to church services in English, Spanish and Vietnamese, the church offers tutoring for school children. It also feeds about 150 people every week at its separate, three-story "compassion center," and that need is growing steadily.

"We have a lot of people in need in this area," said pastor Steve Brooks. "Homeless people, people who are out of work. There are a lot of needy people."

"Our heart is in Lynnwood. Our church family is in Lynnwood," said Martin. "There just aren't other six-acre lots in downtown Lynnwood. We'd have to move away. It would totally change the way our church operates."

Sound Transit projects that, once the Lynnwood link is running, it will carry 47,000 to 55,000 every day. But finding a suitable path for it through the city is tricky.

"This area of the project corridor is very constrained with WSDOT on- and off-ramps, the Interurban Trail, the future Poplar Way Bridge, SnoPUD transmission lines, and an electrical substation," said Sound Transit spokesman John Gallagher. 

The 2,500 member congregation isn't turning the other cheek. About 1,000 of them packed a recent Sound Transit meeting in a polite, but firm protest of the possible plan, hoping both their pleas and their prayers are heard.

"There's a lot of trust in the Lord," said Martin. "We know we're in his hands. He's the one who has protected us for 100 years. He's got a plan for us."

The good news for the church is that the project is still very much in the planning stages. They likely have three to four years to convince Sound Transit to use a different route.

"It is premature to draw conclusions about impacts to any property," said Gallagher. "We will work to avoid, minimize, or mitigate project impacts. We have been working with the City of Lynnwood and WSDOT to explore potential options to mitigate potential impacts to the church. We will be continuing these conversations, as well as our discussions with the church and any other properties with the potential to be affected by the project, as design and planning advances."

Watch: Advocates pushing back on light rail proposal they say would 'destroy' the International District 

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