I was looking at Seattle on Google Earth this morning, and I noticed that much of the city has been updated with new images. This is fantastic from a transit standpoint – the last images were taken at a very early stage of construction. Since then, we’ve come a long way, and I just thought I’d link everyone to some highlights. Because Google Earth and Google Maps use the same image data, everything here is a link you can open in your browser.

Let’s start at the top. This is where the rails disappear into the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel. If we scroll out just a little, we can see the DSTT connects directly to the I-90 center roadway. If you happen to work in Seattle and ride a bus that comes in on I-90 in the morning, you probably use these direct access ramps today. These were designed with curves and grades that can be used for rail transit – these are why it makes perfect sense to build light rail over the I-90 bridge.

Moving south, we have Stadium Station. Last night I watched thousands of people come out of Safeco Field – many of them walked across 4th Ave S. to their cars, but they could just as easily have been walking to this station. This station also serves two Metro bus bases, the maintenance facility for Amtrak and Sounder trains, and likely many Port of Seattle workers. Just south of this station is a storage track – a third track in the middle of the other two. As Roger told us on the lunch bus tour this weekend, at the end of big games, this track can hold an empty light rail vehicle (or four) so that when a train leaves the station completely packed and there are many more people waiting, another train can run right away rather than making game-goers wait for several minutes.

Next there’s SoDo Station. This is right next door to the USPS parking facility, and a few blocks from both Starbucks (west) and Tully’s (east) headquarters – not to mention Seattle Schools’ headquarters building.

Here’s where it gets interesting. Link’s Operations and Maintenance base is complete in this image. We can see the nine tracks that enter the building, as well as the five long storage tracks just to the east of it. The tracks that go inside provide access to maintenance bays that provide access under and over the vehicles, as well as a painting room and a special bay for removing and maintaining the ‘trucks’ – the assemblies under the cars that contain the axles, wheels and electric motors (yes, I took a picture of an electric motor).

Near the base, you can see the west portal of the Beacon Hill tunnel. This is a bit old – see all those things sitting around just south of the track? Those are stacks of tunnel segments. Each stack builds a five foot long ring of tunnel – but they’re all used now, except for one or two extra that were probably kept in case of breakage. The truck leaving the site from the south is a great example of Sound Transit’s protection of the Duwamish waterway – you can see that the ground is wet around it. Sound Transit’s contractor, Obayashi, is required to spray down the wheels of vehicles leaving the site so that the mud doesn’t wash into city drainage.

Last, for now, is the Beacon Hill station site itself. Two round holes are visible here. The larger one, on the left, will have four high-speed elevators bringing riders into and out of the station, which is 165 feet below ground. These elevators get you from top to bottom and vice versa in 20 seconds – four is more than enough for the long-term needs of the station. The smaller hole provides an emergency exit stair. The station itself will be two relatively small structures called headhouses, one with elevator equipment over the large hole, and a quite small one over the other. Most of the property you see here will be returned to the landowner for redevelopment once construction is complete.

We’ll move on to the east portal and southward later.

4 Replies to “A Google Maps tour of Central Link, part 1”

  1. That’s pretty cool. I’ve never been in the maintanence base but now I really want to.

  2. Josh, that’s fantastic! I did something similar at http://soundtransit2.com, but never made it to that quality.

    Matt, I’ve leaned over the edge a few times. It’s pretty wild. 170 feet to the bottom, I believe!

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