According to the Seattle Times, UW is continuing to push for a more expensive Rainer Vista extension plan that will connect the university to a cross walk on Montlake which leads to the Husky Stadium light rail station.

UW officials are pushing for what they consider to be a more elegant idea. The university calls it the Rainier Vista extension, which would add $12 million in cost.

Instead of a skybridge, transit riders would use a new crosswalk on Montlake Boulevard, aided by a new, midblock traffic signal. State traffic engineers warn that change could worsen traffic on Montlake.

Riders could reach the campus via a new “land bridge” to be built over Northeast Pacific Place. The bridge would help create a visual connection with the UW’s Drumheller Fountain.


The transit board likely will consider the issue in May, according to project director Ron Endlich. The UW proposal is estimated to cost $18.8 million, of which the UW, Sound Transit and the city each were to contribute $4 million. The transit agency also would contribute $6.8 million “in savings” by not building the skybridge.

The university since has tried to trim those costs. In recent drawings for bidders, the “land bridge” has been slimmed to 35 feet wide instead of a 100-foot-wide version that was shown at a public forum Dec. 2.

The Seattle Times has a busy graphic showing what the plan would look like here (.pdf).

We spoke briefly about a similar plan in early December and later analyzed that plan’s safety and directness. We concluded that a similar plan is a slightly more direct walk for pedestrians than Sound Transit’s current design, but we don’t have any analysis of the plan that UW is proposing today. My base reaction is that whatever reasonable request the university makes, it should be considered.

53 Replies to “UW Favors Rainer Vista Extension”

  1. I don’t like it. My commute to the UW is based off skybridges (actually just one) that goes directly on to campus. Even though I have to climb stairs on both sides to use the skybridge, it’s always faster than using the crosswalk, even if I jaywalk.

    1. Interesting. I nearly always use the crosswalk at 40th and 15th. That light turns cycle goes fairly fast, probably because of all the buses accessing Grant Lane there. It’s also the best bike access point in my opinion.

  2. Why wouldn’t the Link station have a passageway from the mezzanine that crosses under Montlake Blvd, with stairs or escalators within the triangle? Not only would that serve for access to UW campus, but also for access to bus stops on Pacific St.

    1. I agree with you, why isn’t there just an underground entrance on both sides.
      And why on earth is there that monstrous building above ground, it is completely unnecessary. All you need is a Staircase with a sign, and maybe an escalator or elevator. (on each side of the road, not just one) The building’s functions should all be covered on the platform or in the mezzanine underground.

      1. You need an elevator to be ADA compliant. You need a two story structure for the elevator because you need workings and maintenance access above the elevator. You wouldn’t want the elevator to open directly out into the weather. Hence you end up with the ugly phone booth structure.

      2. Beacon Hill station elevators open right out to the street. They could get by with a very small box.

      3. My understanding is that there can be an elevator the Husky stadium side with a crosswalk for ADA access – you don’t have to have elevators on both sides of the street. I might imagine there isn’t enough room put an elevator on the west side due to the garage there, but there ought to be room for stairs or escalators

    2. You’re absolutely right. And it seems like the glaringly obvious solution. If people need to go underground anyway to get to the platform, why not get them underground on whichever side of Montlake they happen to be on instead of a grade crossing, or making them climb UP to get across the street. Note this is especially true of the UW Hospital, for whom the planned skybridge is useless. There should be a staircase/escalator/disabled elevator entrance on each corner of this busy intersection. Since a mezzanine is already being built, this option seems unlikely to be more expensive than a skybridge.

      It’s a bit baffling that this is not already on the table since just about every busy mass transit station in the world is designed like this.

      1. I’m just guessing, but I think it has to do largely with cost. Double the number of elevators. And, an extra set of escaltors from the top mezzenine. ST may also want to make the site more appealing and secure. Having an escalator at grade with perhaps a canopied area mightn’t offer much of either.

  3. “My base reaction is that whatever reasonable request the university makes, it should be considered.”

    I don’t think ideas that cost $12M more, and make light rail less accessible should be considered. Montlake is a mess as it is; adding thousands of pedestrians to the mix would be a nightmare. The skybridge also benefits Burke-Gilman trail commuters and pedestrians wishing to cross Montlake. There’s also the question of where the recession-impacted ST or UW would come up with the extra funds.

    I think ST should tell UW to take a hike. Due to UW demands, North Link will be slower (strange, non-direct routing under campus) and more expensive (due to said re-route and mitigation during construction) than it needs to be. I think it’s time to stop negotiating with these jokers and proceed as planned.

  4. Looks like UW took the unfavorable comments from the open house about eliminating grade-separated crossings…and ignored them, but shaved off some earthmoving to save money.

    As an aside, why in the world does the link station have two mezzanines? Worse, the upper mezzanine only has a stairway on one side to get above ground. Minimizing pedestrian’s path comes instinctively to the east coast and Europe, but we design subway stations like cloverleaf intersections. People just want to get from the tracks to their destination as fast as possible.

    1. Those four levels scare me. Talk about unreasonable walking time. And the escalators aren’t lined up, you have to backtrack across the mezzanine to get to the next one, like the horrid design of Westlake Center. I bet most people would take the elevators, and hope they go nonstop through the middle two levels.

    2. Well the platform is ten stories below ground. From this cross-section it looks like from at least one end of the platform you’ll have a nearly continuous escalator ride;

      With the failure rate of escalators and how often they seem to be closed for maintenance it’s probably better not to rely on one long escalator to get to the surface. I’ve heard that the escalators in the Wheaton Metro station, the longest in North America, break down quite a bit and then people have to walk the equivalent of 20 flights of stairs.

      1. Why do escalators in subway stations always break down, while escalators in department stores, office buildings, and the airport rarely do? Is it just because they have so many feet on them? Or are the companies that provide subway escalators particularly incompetent?

  5. My understanding is that Sound Transit could have been happy either way, but that SDOT nixed the skybridge because they blindly applied a “no skybridge” dictate that was designed to maintain street-level commerce downtown, a mandate that has zero use in the UW station area.

    Meanwhile, I presume the UW was looking for a way to get the Rainier Vista extension out of the deal, a nice amenity for the campus although it has apparently been trimmed to 35% of its former width.

    If anyone thinks crowds of students in a hurry to get to class are going to wait at a signal and avoid jaywalking, they’re wildly optimistic, or they are counting on constant police presence.

    Whether it’s a tunnel or a bridge, we need to separate the cars and the people at that location. We have a mezzanine right there — can something be done with that?

    And while we are at it, we need to integrate the needs of bicyclists and those transferring between the rail station and a bus. The plan the UW currently supports achieves none of these objectives. IMO, quite myopic thinking from the “University of a thousand years.”

    1. Hmmmmm, if the City nixed the ST skybridge (I don’t think they did; it’s still in the ST plan…) then why would they tolerate the UW’s massive earthen skybridge?

      Thin, relatively unobtrusive skybridges are no good, but a outsized landmass bridge is OK?

      That doesn’t compute.

      1. Yes, it does seem absurd. Ironically, each organization here seems to have tunnel vision, and the net result is, the introduction of an at-grade crossing at the very location where the pedestrian and vehicular volume are maximized.

        The whole process around developing this concept was secretive and exclusive. Regardless of SDOT’s prior contributions to this concept in the waning days of the last administration, there’s new leadership at City Hall, and some consultants from Nelson\Nygaard who are doing some new thinking about this area right now, so I don’t think this is a done deal.

      2. Oddly, we already sort of have a precedent of this AND in Downtown: Elliot Avenue.

      3. I can’t believe they think a crosswalk is more aesthetic than a curved bridge. We don’t need the land lowering.

    2. Yeah from my understanding the City is the problem, not ST. They are taking the no sky bridge concept *way* to far. If they really cared about this they wouldn’t have allowed the new monstrosity down by safeco.

      1. Did they not notice the existing three skybridges across Montlake? Or how popular they are with UW students? Or the lack of pedestrian life on Montlake Boulevard with our without the skybridges?

  6. Anyone who commutes through the area (whether by bus or car) knows how backed up traffic gets– especially during the evening commute. It has taken me over a half hour to get from 45th south to the Montlake bridge.

    This is an absolutely stupid idea, and is further proof how out of touch UW administration is from faculty, students, and workers.

  7. It seems like UW’s just trying to get people to use their triangle, which looks great on renderings but in real life isn’t anywhere people would want to hang out (unless they love car noise and exhaust).

    I vote for what others said above: make the station a simple hole in the ground, and take the money saved and build a pedestrian tunnel. If they’re set on their land bridge, then pop the tunnel out through the roof of the triangle.

  8. What people say above about a pedestrian tunnel is a good idea.

    A similar idea was used in Seoul for the Gwanghwamun Square. A pedestrian tunnel that gradually elevates to the surface on one end of the square from Gwanghwamun Station on Line 5 provides easy access to the station and when people exit the station they get a great view of the square.

    And an image of the entrance/exit from the station:

    From the official site of Korea Tourism: “… Plus, behind the Statue of Admiral Yi Sun-Shin is “Sunken Square” which connects Gwanghwamun subway station and the ground allowing people to access the Square more easily.”

    Something similar done with UW station could be both practical and impressive. With a tunnel opening at Rainier Vista and another exit or two at Husky Stadium and the Medical Center, I don’t see why this hasn’t been considered.

    1. And it’s similar to the sloping road in the middle of Rainier Vista, although that goes down to a locked door and few people know what’s behind it. Gardening tool storage?

    2. WHOA. That would be EXTREMELY useful after Husky games when a flood of people are charging the roads and crosswalks. Simply have everyone go under the road.

      Wow. The tunnel idea shoudl’ve been the first to be considered.

      1. At some point there was talk of lowering Montlake Blvd. I think it was one of the 520 plans floated (might have been the unaffordable option K). If they did that and built the land bridge out over Pacific Place then indeed there would be a huge pedestrian plaza there. Maybe the UW is working incrementally toward this goal. UW has put up real numbers over the last 10-20 years of reducing trips while increasing employment. The key has been a hard limit on the number of parking spaces. Seems like the logical next step is to eliminate SOV access from 520 during the daytime hours.

    3. Yeah, Seoul is doing/has done lots of cool things with transit and big-city livability in recent years. They got a lot of positive press for taking down an 8-lane roadway that covered an old stream that ran through the city and turning into a park of sorts. Think Burke-Gilman Trail with a stream.

      Then they turned the lower roadway of a viaduct crossing the Han River into primarily a bike path.

      Some cool things going on there that transit planners here could look at…perhaps in a smaller scale.

  9. Does the University have any plans to spruce up the Vista and remove all of that hideous ivy that clogs up the lower part. I hope that they will use the opportunity of light rail coming to them to clean this up and add some better landscaping with attractive bushes and flowers etc.

    I think I prefer ST’s original design as it does indeed cross over the roadway and tucks in to the side of the Vista, but perhaps the University feels it removes the visual balance of the Vista – in which case, their ideas John says are worth listening to.

  10. There simply isn’t a problem crossing Montlake at the moment. The ped bridge is completely unnecessary. Traffic is moving so slow and is so gridlocked, that I’ve never seen any close calls here.

    Montlake ped tunnel from the LR station and a Ranier Vista extension would be ideal. Load the triangle with covered bike parking and benches. Make sure there is a dedicated bike path on the extension that leads right onto Montlake to cross the bridge.

    That should satisfy most everybody.

    1. I like it. If we can eliminate the existing Montlake Blvd. pedestrian crossing (near Pacific St.) at the same time, and integrate that function and the bicycle routes and the rail station access into a comprehensive plan — then we achieve additional benefits.

      Traffic crossing the Montlake Bridge heading towards U Village will see its first traffic signal at Pacific Place, on the north side of the triangle. This would increase the northbound capacity of the Montlake/Pacific intersection, which is currently a constraint in the system, relieving some of the northbound traffic congestion on the current drawbridge.

      Meanwhile, coupled with the Rainier Vista extension, bicyclists from the Arboretum or the Eastside via 520 will be able to get to the Burke-Gilman trail without a single traffic signal (other than the drawbridge itself, of course.)

  11. I like the pedestrian skybridge better than the Rainier Vista extension. Three reasons: (1) It’s cheaper; (2) Pedestrians don’t have to wait for a crossing signal and can’t be hit by a car; (3) Motor vehicles have one less stoplight to deal with.

  12. Main thing is that present station is unacceptably cut off from bus connections of any kind, except University Village and Sandpoint. Bellevue, Capitol Hill, Pacific Place, Fifteenth Avenue, and the most of UW are left out.

    Remember that for an unknown number of years, this is going to be LINK’s north-end terminal. So the size of the building doesn’t bother me as much as its isolation.

    I like the idea of extending the mezzanine across Montlake- a good landscape architect should be able to work it into an attractive eastward extension of Rainier Vista. Tunnel or elevated, whichever’s best. Pedestrian access to this station shouldn’t have to depend on stalled traffic for safety and convenience.

    This is worth some serious citizen- and especially UW student and faculty-pressure to correct.

    Mark Dublin

    1. The only bus stop on the same side of the street as the station is for route 243, which has three runs in the morning and two in the afternoon.

    2. Not sure about Sand Point. The 30 would have to go way out of its way through congested streets to reach the station, unless it were split into east and west routes. The 75 is unlikely to go around campus when it currently goes right past the HUB.

  13. Isn’t that triangle area an underground parking garage? I just wonder how feasible trying to put a pedestrian tunnel through that area as well would be.

    1. Yes it is, and I’d think it would make it easier since the only earthwork required would be under the street. But maybe UW is afraid of losing a few parking spaces.

  14. To improve bus connections from the station, I would suggest moving the westbound stop at Pacific Place and Pacific St to the south side of the triangle. Widening the road here, so that the buses could stop and wait without blocking traffic might help. Adding a southbound stop on Montlake Blvd just south of Pacific St would help as well. There used to be a stop here several years ago. This stop would improve connections from link to the south and also to the eastside.

    Also, as a pedestrian who walks through this area every day, I find crossing Pacific Place — where the UW wants to build the land bridge — much more dangerous than the other crossings. While the crosswalks are marked, there is no signal or stop sign. Drivers, especially those coming from Montlake Blvd, have a difficult time seeing the pedestrians at this crossing.

  15. I saw in the permit applications section in the North Seattle Herald Outlook the other day an application to build the pedestrian bridge, so does that means it’s already been decided?

  16. Using existing UW medical center triangle garage infrastructure, a tunnel system connecting to the station could be cheaply constructed. I would not be surprised if it would be cheaper to do than the skybridge proposal, in fact. Here’s an example:

    Keep in mind that the only part of this map that would need to be dug would be the tunnel underneath Montlake.

    1. I’ve asked before why UW wouldn’t want the parking garage directly connected to the Link station. Security concerns seem to be the issue most often raised but I suspect the UW is more concerned about the garage becoming a P&R when they are focused on keeping it as hospital parking. That’s a valid concern and so is security but with respect to the P&R issue a few well publicized cases of barrel locking the offenders and charging a $500 fine would take care of that and I think increased public presence would actually increase security at night. It certainly seems like the UW staff and patients would benefit.

      I guess being tied to the Alaska Yukon Expo the UW feels a compelling attachment to the “land bridge” concept; but on this one I think the old alma mater has missed the boat.

      1. The P&R issue is one that will already be a problem, given the proximity of the station. By working the current design of the garage into the construction of the Montlake station, planning can be done to deter P&R usage, as you already suggested.

        I agree with UW: a land-bridge would be nice. But with tuition hikes and funding problems plaguing our public institution, a nice view is not our priority.

      2. The parking lot is already outrageous as it is. First, I don’t think there will be many people willing to pay $10, $15, even $20 for a “park and ride” spot at UW. Second, why would the University care? They’re still getting their revenue one way or the other.

      3. It’s $10 for all day in/out access and free on Sundays. For Seahawk home games the Triangle Garage would make a very attractive option. $10 is cheaper than most downtown garages (cheaper than the main garage if you’re there more than 3 hours). The problem is the lot needs to be kept at a capacity where there is always parking for those with hospital business. There’s a large number of disabled spots reserved in the Triangle Garage and it’s just a fact that a lot of people “borrow” permits that don’t belong to them.

  17. Any solution to bringing some sense to Husky Stadium Station has to answer the question “How will buses get to and from 520 without getting stuck in gridlock?”

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