On Thursday about 100 people joined around two dozen staff from various agencies to hear about the 30% design of Rainier Station. The event was at the Northwest African American Museum, a venue that stands to move up a few pegs on the tourist trail when it has easy light rail access.
Although various factors will prevent the station area from ever being Capitol Hill, there’s always more the City could be doing about zoning. In any case, one particularly appealing aspect of the station is the dual entrances on Rainier and 23rd Ave. Those will provide access to the pivotal 7 and 48, as well as the I-90 bike trail. From there, ST estimates travel times of 15 minutes to UW, 22 to Northgate, and 26 to Overlake. ST estimates those times will attract 3,000 riders in 2030, seven years after it opens: 2,000 from the 23rd Ave entrance and 1,000 from Rainier.
The bad news is that the distance between the two entrances is (unavoidably) quite a bit longer than a train length, meaning a longer walk for riders. On the 23rd Avenue side, after the portal* it’s a 330 feet walkway, terminating in a nice viewpoint of the skyline before descending to the platform.
Architect David Hewitt told me about a third of the platform will be covered, but the walkway will be uncovered largely for cost reasons. The platform will also feature wind barriers that curve in such a way that one can shield oneself from any direction. The barriers will be transparent to maintain sightlines.
It’s the Rainier Avenue approach that has the most notable features:
- An at-grade crossing from the platform to access the ramp. Mr. Hewitt cited aesthetic reasons for not having riders descend between the tracks: it would be “ominous” and give people a “sense of entrapment.” ST’s architect on the project, Cynthia Padilla, said the crossing would likely be similar to Sodo, with bells and lights. ST is also planning an “accessible pedestrian signal” that vibrates with distinct “walk” and “wait” signals when one touches it.
- A 407-foot walkway to an escalator/elevator set, opening into a plaza cut out of the exisiting embankment.
- Demolition of the Westbound bus bridge over Rainier, daylighting the plaza. The pedestrian walkway/platform for the Westbound flyer stop will remain, providing a pedestrian crossing to and from Southbound buses on Rainier.
That brings us to the plans for I-90 buses. Project Manager Paul Cornish said that plans have firmed up since I last reported on the D-2 roadway. ST is still planning for the 554 to either terminate at Mercer Island or divert to South Bellevue.
Metro’s current plan is to have the busway between Rainier Station and downtown be one lane, permanently Eastbound. Westbound buses, mainly in the morning, would get off on Rainier and fight the relatively mild congestion, while in the afternoon enjoying dedicated right-of-way. As a result, WSDOT will retain the Eastbound busway and demolish the Westbound one. That said, Mr. Cornish said there was still a possibility that all I-90 buses would terminate at Mercer Island if the agencies could resolve the logistics of layovers and satisfy all the stakeholders there.
As always, ST is soliciting suggestions for the station name. Merely to stimulate discussion, the survey suggests Judkins Park (the neighborhood name) of Jimi Hendrix Park (the park by NWAAM). I’m glad to see Rainier omitted, as it would be confusing given Central Link’s interface with Rainier Avenue. Personally, Judkins Park, Central District, and 23rd Ave are all names I see merit in.
ST will complete 60% design the first half of next year, and 90% by the end of 2014. There is not yet an online means to view the materials and submit comments, but ST assures me that will appear soon. [UPDATE: Materials are now online.]
*Including a bike cage, on which more tomorrow.