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As voters ponder Sound Transit 3, Central District light rail station takes shape

screen-shot-2016-03-21-at-9-26-11-pmWith a transformative light rail expansion measure now in voters’ hands, Sound Transit offered Central District residents an opportunity this week to see the fruits of passing the measure’s predecessor in 2008.

Judkins Park Station is slated to open in 2023 along with the rest of the 10-stop, voter initiative-funded East Link light rail line that will dramatically expand Sound Transit rail service in the region. The Judkins station open house Tuesday at the Northwest African American Museum served as an unofficial unveiling of the (nearly) final designs for the project.

The Central District station will be tucked into and underneath I-90, spanning Rainier Ave and 23rd Ave. With a 380-foot long platform (80 feet longer than a football field), the Judkins station will be the longest in the entire light rail system. An existing pedestrian bridge over Rainier will be maintained and an elevator and stairway will be added to get riders to the station entrance.

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 the Judkins station street-level entrance below the platform.

Construction is slated to begin in mid-2018 and last through 2021. Officials said they were still working on plans to minimize impacts to the Mountains to Sound Greenway and I-90.

Officials told CHS the current station renderings are nearly final, but architects are still working on incorporating recommendations from September’s Seattle Design Commission meeting. Commission members were primarily concerned with the prominence of the “gateway” feature at the station’s Rainier Ave entrance. The structure was added in order to hold the roll down gate to close-off the station from 1-5 AM.

Sound Transit officials walked through the station in their third and final open house on the station design, noting architectural elements, art, and landscaping.

Images of the Central District’s most famous native son will be prominently displayed outside the station. A New York-based artist is creating two large murals of Jimi Hendrix, one for each of the station’s entrances. Artwork from local artist Barbara Earl Thomas will be included within the station, primarily on wind guards surrounding the platform seating.

“It will be a regular part of your life,” said Kurt Kiefer, Sound Transit’s public art coordinator.

Having to meet various, sometimes opposing needs, Sound Transit architect David Hewitt said the design team strived to create an interesting station that was still functional and fiscally responsible.

“This needs to be serviceable for 50 years,” he said. “It has to display a sense of prudence.”

It seems that a more interconnected region may also come with having to travel longer distances for public meetings The next East Link extension meeting is planned for November 17th in Redmond.

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15 thoughts on “As voters ponder Sound Transit 3, Central District light rail station takes shape

  1. One station in the Central District! Wow! We’re spending $53 billion to send trains to Issaquah and Redmond, while much denser areas in Seattle will still lack service. This is blog boosterism at it’s finest — one station in Central District — yay we’re serving the Central District. So what if we have trains with at most 3 small cars, compared to effective train stations capable of 10 or more large cars (think SF or NY), meaning, if lots of people want to use the system it will be inadequate. So what if we’re pouring billions of dollars into subsidized train service for affluent suburbs? So what if by spending, say, 10 billion dollars (instead of ST3 $53 billion) we could have the greatest bus system in the world, and be poised to incorporate self-driving technologies that will make it ever more efficient and safe? So what if ST3 proponents concede it is completely inadequate to even stop the increase of traffic in the region? There’s gonna be one (1) station in the Central District! Yay!

    • Then again, there is only one station in Capitol Hill as well, which has got to be more dense than Central.

      I agree, more density in the system would be helpful. But Seattle has neither commuter rail nor subway, and desperately needs both. Thank goodness for ST3. Unfortunately to build more density would require far more than the $ requested for ST3. That’s a real pickle.

      RE buses and self driving cars — by all means, but make no mistake, they generally cannot move the same numbers (particularly if we got past 3-car trains!) And they still use the same crowded rights of way which can be helped by design but is yet to be solved entirely…

    • 4 car trains will be the standard length when East Link opens in 2023 (or earlier). In addition, the new trains will have more space in them due to a better seating layout including wider aisles.

  2. What’s missing is pedestrian passage from Rainier (a big bus stop) up to 23rd (into the neighborhood). As planned you need to go through the station (illegally) or take a side path up a hill, that doesn’t feel too safe when walking alone. Not accessible to everyone.

  3. I don’t get the argument of self driving cars as the better answer to light rail. You think that because the day that the self driving car (say in 10-15 years from now, if majority of the population can afford it?) will take over the roads, which maybe saves a few brake taps in the morning commute, but that doesn’t REDUCE traffic like Light Rail would! I’m sorry, but you gotta think about moving MORE people, not RICH people!

    • You’re seeing a future where self-driving cars would be owned by individuals, much as now, except with better driving technology. This would be a big waste and I agree, not a very good use of resources. Most people who’ve looked closely at this see a future where people will use car-sharing services, and this will permit at least an 80% reduction in the number of vehicles, which will make a big impact on traffic. No rail system can even come close. A couple of interesting articles about this from The Economist and Mother Jones: and (articles starts out about parking but very interesting discussion of bigger potential for better system near the end) Interestingly, Tesla has announced a car sharing service and Uber is already testing it’s service in Pittsburgh. Of course driverless vehicles don’t need to be “cars” — they can be minibuses or buses or whatever size works best. There will probably be alternatives at different costs ultimately (think of regular Uber vs. Uber pool vs. larger vehicles). In any event, these vehicles will be less expensive, will go anywhere and will not require the gigantic expense of the light rail system we’re talking about. So as Seattle builds more rail, cities like Los Angeles are already planning how to integrate their limited rail system with new technologies. By contrast the Seattle transit plan this year had nothing about new technologies and instead a huge focus on more expensive streetcars. Alas, it’s a Seattle future where car ownership will continue to go up and “alternatives” like fixed rail will be an add on — at least, that’s the future envisioned by the ST3 proponents.

  4. Yes, indeed, thank god we’re expanding the lite rail!! Because unlike buses and cars driven by any method, the lite rail takes tens of thousands of people off the roads every day. Just the addition of the last 2 stations took those trains from half empty for 2 cars to standing room only at all times of day or night with 3 cars. Additionally, more cars can be added when needed. Excuse me if I’m wrong, but I’d swear they can’t add more lanes to our freeways at a moment’s notice. I didn’t read that, I SEE it from my frequent trips. The only thing I don’t like about the new levy is the ridiculous time frame for completion – many people voting for it will be retired before those projects are completed.

    In addition to the fact there is NOWHERE to expand I-5 through Seattle, all of these thousands of people riding the train allow for more efficient and effective bus routing. Further, the radical reduction in commute times means the 1.7 MILLION boardings Sound Transit logged for May 2016 (look it up) mean a radically improved quality of life with obvious benefits for riders and non-riders alike.

    Besides the fact that more buses and self driving cars do NOTHING to decrease pollution and improve the environment, they’d NEVER be able to improve on the lite rail commute times, times which are enhanced by the easy hook ups with buses and the Sounder to get to more outlying areas. It’s difficult not to assume the commenter has never bothered to actually ride the lite rail. For example, I can now get from Capitol Hill to Kent Station in 47 minutes, with one transfer in the International District, versus the 90 minute commute Metro’s 150 took, also with 1 transfer. Try getting informed with FACTS before spouting such nonsense, becaue I’m NOT currently affluent, and my life has become radically more convenient with the drastically reduced commute the lite rail gives me to. It’s really ignorant to suggest our new trains detract from bus service when they’ve specifically been routed to ENHANCE bus service.

    • You say they can add cars to the light rail when needed. Is this true? Wouldn’t they need to re-do all of the stations to accommodate longer trains?

  5. It is definitely true that they can add cars at will. In fact, before the last two stations were added, The light rail usually only ran with two cars. Sound transit made it very clear they could add additional cars whenever there is a need, and have already done so. It’s a really neat feature that only the light rail can accommodate!

    • Actually, they’ve put one additional car (making small, 3 car trains much smaller capacity than a more robust rail system like BART or NYC subways). I think Sound Transit has said 3’s the limit, the way our system is designed. Certainly, you can’t fit 10 car trains in most of our stations!

    • 4 car trains will be the standard length by 2021, when Northgate Link opens and ST receives the last of their recent order of 122 new train cars. All stations have platforms around 400 feet, which will accommodate up to four 90ft trains.

  6. Let’s talk about the real hero here, the person responsible for those Photoshops of the station. That’s some quality work there.

    Also, as to the original comment, you send rail to Redmond and Issaquah because that’s where all of your cars are coming and going to Seattle. That seems kind of obvious. Not everyone who works in the city lives in the city, and vice versa. I’d kill for light rail down the new 520, since it’d dump me off at my office near Microsoft in like 10 minutes instead of the hour I commute on the bus every day. Considering the number of people riding those busses every day, I’m pretty sure I’m not the only person who’d appreciate a faster alternative.

  7. Can someone answer the following? So going south from Capitol Hill, at Int’l District station it looks like the the train can either go to the East or continue south to Stadium/SODO, etc. So does that mean the trains will be marked as Eastbound or Southbound? I’m thinking so. But then would this affect the frequency of the original southbound trains? Or is it just about adding the Eastbound additionally?

    Not seeing how they could add more trains unless busses fully out. But I can’t see how they would want to have the adding of east trains negatively impact the original.

    • Once East Link opens in 2023, there will be two Link lines – the red line and the blue line. The red line will run from Kent/Des Moines to Northgate, and the blue line will run from Northgate to Overlake TC. Both lines will run every 6 minutes at peak hours. Therefore, trains will have 3 minute combined headways from the Int’l district station and north.