With expanded light rail a year away, Metro rolls out proposed route changes

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(Images: King County Metro)

(Images: King County Metro)

Earlier this week, CHS reported that the agency’s planning is pointing at a March 2016 opening for light rail service through Capitol Hill Station — though Sound Transit is still officially saying only that they’re planning for the first quarter of the year. CHS reported last fall that part of ramping up for the new transit option would be a plan to optimize Metro bus routes around the city in anticipation of the new service.

This week, Metro has rolled out two alternative plans for changing service on Capitol Hill and beyond when U-Link extension is fired up at the beginning of 2016. Here is Metro’s project page for the “Link Connections” planning.

As the Urbanist site reported earlier this week in a preview of the announcement, Metro’s “Link Connections” Alternative 1 is the more aggressive of the plans while Alternative 2 represents an incremental approach. If past optimization exercises with the county are any indication, you can expect Alternative 1 to be held up as a kind of marker at the edge of possibility while the second alternative ends up being closest to the final plan.

Some key details on the proposals for Capitol Hill and Central Seattle are below. Please let us know what we missed and what others should be aware of. Continue reading

Light rail plans call for Capitol Hill Station to open in March… 2016

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(Images: CHS)

(Images: CHS)

March 2016 will be a big month for Capitol Hill transit. If everything goes to plan — and it has, mostly, through four years of work so far — Broadway’s Capitol Hill Station and the 3.1 mile University Link extension of Sound Transit’s light rail network will begin “revenue service” a year from now.

In the agency’s “2015 Service Implementation Plan” (PDF), Sound Transit planners lay out the timeline for the $1.8 billion project to begin carrying passengers next March as part of its regular schedule of service changes through its various bus and rail services.

Trial runs on the line are expected to begin “in Fourth Quarter 2015,” according to the document produced last December. “Testing for the University extension is expected to begin either at or sometime during the September 2015 service change,” the document notes elsewhere in the plan.

UPDATE: We’ll let you parse this response from a Sound Transit spokesperson:

We really don’t know that U Link will open in March, 2016. All we know right now is that it will be in the first quarter – could be anytime Jan-March at this point. The service changes that the SIP referred to are any changes that happen as/after U Link opens, not the usual service changes that happen in February.

The spokesperson tells us that Sound Transit is planning to update the document “to say U Link opens in Q1 next year.” The original wording? “Testing for this alignment will begin in Fourth Quarter 2015 with revenue service anticipated to begin with the March 2016 service change.”

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Also coming to Capitol Hill’s underground light rail station and tunnels in 2016: wireless service

IMG_3562-2The Sound Transit board is set to approve a contract on Thursday to add cell phone service inside its light rail tunnels and stations. The bad news: no more phone silence when your train goes underground.

Last year, the company Mobilitie was selected to build out the neutral host 4G LTE cell network (i.e., a multi-carrier network with data) to service all underground light rail stations and tunnels. Installation is expect to start in the coming months, but service won’t be available until mid-2016.

Under the proposed contract (PDF), Mobilitie would be responsible for funding, installing, and maintaining the cellular system. The company will also pay Sound Transit $7,500 a month and a one-time $250,000 payment when the University Link tunnel comes online. The company will profit by selling network access to cellular providers.

University Link light rail trains remain on track to start rolling through Capitol Hill Station by early next year. The University Link line will extend underground from downtown to connect with Capitol Hill and University District stations. Sound Transit began boring for the Northgate Link tunnel in November, which will add three more stations north of the University Station: U District, Roosevelt, and Northgate. As of last month, construction on the Capitol Hill Station was around 78% complete.

In addition to enhancing rider experience, Sound Transit anticipates cell service could be used for direct communication with passengers:

Installing wireless communications coverage will improve safety, security, and information opportunities for transit passengers travelling in the underground facilities. It will also create opportunities for additional communications methods and media for transit operations.

Meanwhile, the Sound Transit board is still evaluating proposals to develop the housing and retail properties surrounding the Broadway light rail station. The board is expected to announce the winning contractor(s) in early March.

Capitol Hill Station retail and housing: $25M price tag, one developer drops out, plans due in December

We'll be seeing more proposals for the development around Capitol Hill Station soon. Here's one rendering from a past American Institute of Architecture Students project.

We’ll be seeing more proposals for the development around Capitol Hill Station soon. Here’s one rendering from a past American Institute of Architecture Students project.

Developers have finally submitted their proposals for the four sites that will make up the retail, housing, and community surrounding the Capitol Hill light rail station. Sound Transit says it is now reviewing plans submitted by the shortlisted teams. Officials must also decide if the four parcels should be developed separately, or if one firm will act as “master developer” for the 100,000 square feet “transit oriented development” that will include housing, commercial, and a community spaces. There’s also an official price tag now: $25 million.

Sound Transit’s initial property valuations were echoed by the agency’s outside analyst, which released a detailed appraisal of all five sites last week. The appraisals by Valbridge Property Advisors gives an interesting, albeit dry glimpse into the kind of work that goes on behind the scenes in the very early stages of planning many Capitol Hill developments.

In addition to considering constraints of the community development agreement, the appraiser evaluated how the neighborhood and transit-centered location would increase the property’s value. The report also analyzed nearby property sales:Screen Shot 2014-11-03 at 3.47.59 PM

In total, the four TOD properties were valued at $25 million. Here’s how the appraisals break down:

Site A: $9.1 million
Site B North: $2.8 million
Site B South: $6.2 million
Site C: $6.9 million

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Piece by piece, Broadway’s Red Wall is finally coming down

We've been through a lot with this guy (Image: CHS)

We’ve been through a lot with this guy (Image: CHS)

More than five years after the demolitions that kicked off the massive project, the Capitol Hill Sound Transit light rail station is entering its final months of construction. As the station rises between John and Denny on Broadway, the various murals and art installations that have decorated the exterior of the surrounding plywood “Red Wall” are slowly coming down piece by piece.

(Image: CHS)

(Image: CHS)

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Sound Transit contractor that dug twin light rail tunnels beneath Capitol Hill hit with racial discrimination lawsuit

Black workers who say they were demeaned and fired because of their race are suing the Sound Transit contractor responsible for digging the twin tunnels between Montlake and Broadway for the U-Link light rail extension beneath Capitol Hill.

KPLU reports:

A group of African American laborers who worked on the Sound Transit Link Light Rail project at Husky Stadium are suing, seeking class action status in federal court.

The men, four of whom appeared at a press conference in Seattle, say they were demeaned and fired because of their race. Continue reading

With eye on 2016 Capitol Hill light rail, plans readied to integrate Metro, Sound Transit service — UPDATE

Escalators leading up to mezzanine level of the UW light rail station (Image: CHS)

Escalators leading up to mezzanine level of the UW light rail station (Image: CHS)

King County Executive Dow Constantine will be at the University of Washington light rail station construction site Wednesday afternoon to announce the “initial results” of planning “to integrate services provided by the region’s two largest transit agencies” — King County’s Metro and Sound Transit.

“It is essential for transit agencies with overlapping jurisdictions to fully integrate their services, and provide them to the public as efficiently as possible,” Constantine said in a statement on the planning earlier this summer following his executive order forcing the process. “Long term, our transportation future requires both adequate revenue and continuous innovation to expand service. This initiative advances the innovation half of that equation.”

UPDATE: The release plan includes possible proposals to revise Metro Route 8 and create or revise Capitol Hill routes to better connect the Broadway light rail station to South Lake Union and First Hill. More details below. Continue reading

Sound Transit issues clarifications for Capitol Hill Station development proposals as cost concerns mount

Lots of concrete got pumped in to help complete Capitol Hill Station this spring and summer. Lots of money will need to be pumped in to complete the "transit oriented development" around the station (Image: Sound Transit)

Lots of concrete got pumped in to help complete Capitol Hill Station this spring and summer. Lots of money will need to be pumped in to complete the “transit oriented development” around the station (Image: Sound Transit)

As the projected start date for construction of the apartment complexes and businesses that will populate the area surrounding the Capitol Hill light rail station approaches in coming years, Sound Transit has released clarifications of many of the rules governing how the short-list of potential developers will outline project proposals for the developments. According to Cathy Hillenbrand of the Capitol Hill Champion community group, Sound Transit has provided new information about how the proposals will be graded and selected as well as aspects of the design process.

“What I’ve been hearing is that the developers will be having to spend a couple hundred thousand dollars if not more just to complete these proposals just because of the level of design-detail Sound Transit wants,” said Hillenbrand. “So if you’re one of the six teams competing for Site A, that’s not a great percentage of chance for winning, so are you going to lay out hundreds of thousands of dollars for that?”CHStation-TOD-area-600x467-1 Continue reading

Capitol Hill Station’s crane ready to depart Broadway’s skyline after 3 1/2 years

Capitol Hill Station's shell now rises above the Broadway construction walls. Time to say goodbye to the crane. (Image: CHS)

Capitol Hill Station’s shell now rises above the Broadway construction walls. Time to say goodbye to the crane. (Image: CHS)

Construction signs warned the Hill to be ready for a long haul back in December 2009 (Image: CHS)

Construction signs warned the Hill to be ready for a long haul back in December 2009 (Image: CHS)

A part of the neighborhood skyline for nearly 1,300 days is slated to wave its 250-foot arm goodbye to Capitol Hill this month. The giant crane purchased by Sound Transit contractors that has helped build Capitol Hill Station and the U-Link light rail tunnels beneath Capitol Hill will be taken down, disassembled, and transported north to help build a new station in Roosevelt.

Sound Transit says it will require approximately 20 trucks to cart the giant crane. More information about the crane’s August removal will be announced soon. The Krøll 1800 (Capitol Hill’s is the metric model) was set up with its enormous 250-foot jib about 100 feet off the ground. The model can be as tall as 200 feet. It can lift more than 30,000 pounds at full extension and more than 130,000 when operating at a shorter radius, according to the manufacturer. Continue reading

CHS Video | A walk in the light rail tunnel to Capitol Hill Station — UPDATE

The video stops at Capitol Hill Station -- but the CHS photographer went all the way to Pine. Here, the track curves beneath I-5. More pictures from the trip soon. (Image: Alex Garland for CHS)

The video stops at Capitol Hill Station — but the CHS photographer went all the way to Pine. Here, the track curves beneath I-5. More pictures from the trip below. (Image: Alex Garland for CHS)

The best news: It will take you less time to ride from the University of Washington to Broadway when light rail’s U-Link opens in early 2016 than it will to watch this hastily edited video of CHS’s walk Friday afternoon from Montlake to the future Capitol Hill Station with the winners of a Sound Transit contest.

Four winners of a contest designed to buck up a local restaurant’s prospects during construction made the 3.1 mile trek under Capitol Hill from the construction site at UW’s Husky Stadium to the edge of the downtown transit tunnel beneath the Paramount. They were escorted by a gaggle of Sound Transit representatives and a small pack of media for the Friday afternoon hike.

Arriving at the future Capitol Hill Station

Arriving at the future Capitol Hill Station

More than 1,000 entries were received in the Annapurna Cafe contest, officials say. One winner declined to make the journey. Commence your “Hey, I would have taken your place!” complaints. Continue reading