As U-Link light rail moves from weekend novelty to weekday workhorse, Sound Transit is preparing for its next major expansion in the region that will include bringing light rail to the Central District.
In 2023, the fully-funded and almost completely designed East Link light rail line is planned to connect Bellevue, Redmond, and Seattle across the I-90 bridge. It will also include one stop in Seattle smack-dab in the middle of I-90 just south of Judkins Park. Construction on Judkins Park Station is slated to begin by mid-2017. It will be the western-most station on the 10-stop East Link line which is expected to carry 50,000 riders by 2030.
Just as light rail connections at the UW and Capitol Hill have expanded notions of what is “close by,” the Judkins station is poised to do the same for the Central Area.
The station will be a 10-minute, half-mile walk from 23rd and Jackson, where high-density development activity is laying the groundwork to bring thousands of transit riders in the near future.
From there, it would be a breezy 12-minute ride to Broadway via the bus-reduced downtown transit tunnel vs. the 30-minute time investment of taking the perennially late 8.
In February, the Paul Allen-backed Vulcan sealed the deal for a 570-unit, mixed-use development on the southeast corner of 23rd and Jackson. The Seattle real estate giant announced it paid $30.9 million to acquire the Promenade 23 shopping center and the commercial area surrounding Starbucks across the street.
The Sound Transit 2-funded East Link will replace I-90’s current center-running express lanes to cross Lake Washington and connect with Central Link. Demolition of the lanes at Rainier Ave will make way for a street-level entrance below the platform while another entranced will be located to the east at 23rd Ave. In December, the City of Seattle announced it had won an award for station improvements, including added bike facilities. Meanwhile, artists Barbara Earl Thomas and Hank Willis Thomas have been selected to create the art program for the station with part of the work “visually represents passing one’s presence onto future generations” via windscreens located on the station platform.”
The Judkins station should also bring some welcomed streetscape improvements to the immediate area. While the site of the future station is surrounded by a string of lovely parks and green space, the area under and around the cavernous I-90 overpass is a pedestrian dead zone.
East Link will connect with the Central Link at the International District Station. Riders heading south towards the airport will need to transfer while a single seat ride will take you to Roosevelt Station and beyond.
Due to its location in the midst of I-90, there is no planned development to surround the station like on Capitol Hill.
East Link will break ground in Bellevue later this year.
Meanwhile, the Sound Transit Board is expected to release its final plan Thursday for the next massive investment in regional rapid transit. With the potential to raise $27 million over 25 years if voters approve the ballot measure in November, Sound Transit 3 could fund a West Seattle to Ballard extension, expanded light rail through Kent and Federal Way, and a bus rapid transit line on E Madison through Capitol Hill.
UPDATE: It’s probably just cruel to include the so-called “Metro 8” light rail proposal because Sound Transit isn’t officially studying it. But some in the city’s transit advocacy community argue that a route connecting Belltown, South Lake Union, Capitol Hill, and the Central District at Judkins would be one of the best ROI choices Sound Transit could make for the upcoming ST3. Doesn’t look likely for the darkhorse — maybe ST4?
Ballard Spur and Metro 8 Subway Serve Seattle Better Than Interbay Light Rail
One of the biggest things the Interbay alignment brings to the table is a station in Uptown and either Belltown or South Lake Union (perhaps both with a somewhat squiggly alignment). The Metro 8 Subway could do the same thing for less money. The most important stretch connecting Uptown to Madison Street would be about 3 miles. It takes another 0.8 miles to reach Cherry Street and 23rd Avenue closer to the heart of the Central District. Since the length is about the same as the Ballard Spur, the cost should be similar.