Every year or two, we get rid of one more place where people can cross the train tracks. This time it’s one we’ve all been holding our breath for – Royal Brougham. The state, city, and federal governments (not to mention several others) are about to start work on elevating the roadway over the track, increasing safety for sports fans and increasing reliability for our trains.

The amount of freight going through here is immense. What seems to happen at this crossing is that a freight train will pass by, and someone will walk out behind it, assuming it’s safe – only to be hit by a train coming the other way, on the next track over. I’ve gotten to sit on a delayed Amtrak train down at Spokane Street to wait for the coroner more than once.

It’s easy to blame individuals for walking on the tracks (and seriously, how dumb do you have to be to go around the gate?), but that doesn’t solve the on-time performance problem this creates, or the delay for cars and people when a train is moved through the intersection on the way to and from King Street Station and the yard. So we’re slowly removing the problem crossings.

There are a few others funded – I think they’re all between Seattle and Tacoma, as that’s probably the most heavily utilized track in the region, and it goes through downtown Kent, Auburn, Puyallup, and Sumner – cities that will probably continue to grow as our commuter rail service matures and expands.

Here’s a map. You can see the new overpass there at Royal Brougham, which includes a very square looking little loop to get back to ground level. There will also be a pedestrian elevator on the west side with a ramp on the east – this will make it slightly more of a pain in the butt to get over to light rail. The big curved line is the offramp connection from I-90 to the existing Atlantic St. overpass. By the way – note that a single grade separation, a new offramp, and an intersection rebuild costs over $180 million (unless I’m mistaken, and that cost includes the Atlantic overpass as well, but still). These projects are not cheap – it always gets my goat when people say things like light rail are ‘too expensive’. Relative to what? This is the same as the cost of two elevated light rail stations.

7 Replies to “Another Little Improvement For Amtrak Cascades”

  1. This is definitely good news — grade separations in heavily trafficked areas aren’t cheap, but they’re vital to keeping things moving smoothly.

    It’s too bad it would probably cost in the billions (I assume, anyway) to put the trains in a trench, because it would be nice from a pedestrian viewpoint if the walkway could stay level. Still, far better to have an overpass than than no way of passing at all…

    1. Given that the low section of track at King Street already floods sometimes, I’m not sure that a trench would be a good idea. Separating all the crossings is likely cheaper – there aren’t many left in south Seattle.

  2. Interesting. First of all it looks like they’ve killed the main way of getting to 99 from 4th (by not allowing a left turn on S. Atlantic). You’ll still be able to go one more block north, turn left, turn left, turn left, make a u-turn, wait through stadium traffic, and turn right. But that’s a big deal. The only other way across is further south, and wait for the train to go by.

    I would guess this is a sign that the viaduct is really going away? Maybe that’s wishful thinking, but it would then make sense to keep people on 4th for northbound city traffic.

  3. I think the viaduct is most assuredly going away. The city has been putting off renovations along Marginal and Spokane street until the viaduct is torn down(i.e. why fix it now when it’ll be fixed in the next 5 years anyway, and most of the plans for the current viaduct area are street level with transit alternatives – yay!). As a bicyclist, and one who attends SDOT and SBAB meetings, this is the feeling I’ve received from the city planners. That 4th Ave access to Atlantic will be only the start of the traffic woes in that area.

    1. I think traffic will improve. When there aren’t fifty thousand people trying to get to the viaduct, there won’t be as many people trying to go through there. It’ll just take a while.

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