The new design for the Montlake Triangle project was publicly presented at an open house hosted by Sound Transit and its project partners (UW, WSDOT, SDOT) on Wednesday. The project improves access for pedestrians and bicyclists to the University of Washington Link Station from the main UW campus, UW Medical Center, Burke-Gilman Trail, and area bus stops. It also improves the aesthetics of the area to create an inviting gateway to the university and enhance the Rainier Vista view corridor.
The new design essentially combines Sound Transit’s original plan with UW’s Rainier Vista Landbridge plan with modifications and additions. There will be a 30-foot wide pedestrian/bicycle bridge across Montlake Boulevard from the station house to the center of the Montlake Triangle, instead of a new signalized crosswalk. A landbridge connecting the Rainier Vista path to the Triangle will be created by lowering Pacific Place and the Burke-Gilman Trail, reducing traffic conflicts. A new plaza will be created inside the Triangle, framed by trees that will mostly obscure the busy intersection and street, while drawing eyes up towards the mountain. Another path leads from the plaza to a new crosswalk and bus stop on NE Pacific St opposite the Medical Center. The entire Triangle will be universally accessible with ramps and handrails.
Materials from the open house should be posted on Sound Transit’s UW Station project page by the weekend. You can find plenty of design documents from UW Capital Projects Office’s project page. Also, see more photos of the design model shown at the open house.
More details after the jump.
The 30-foot wide bridge splits into two narrower bridges on both sides. There is a 14-foot wide bridge connected directly to the station house’s upper floor with stairs and escalators to the ground level and elevators to the station platform. Bicycles can use a separate outdoor stairway designed with an 8% grade, landings and runnels (tracks that allow a bike to be pushed up a stair). A 16-foot wide bridge ramps down south, passing the station house, to join with the regional trail from the Montlake Bridge and SR 520. On the Triangle side, the wide bridge splits in two to break up the appearance of a very wide path and channel users toward their destinations. It is also less dominating over the major Rainier Vista axis.
There is a technical reason why the landbridge narrows to 34 feet across Pacific Place. The maximum depth Pacific Place can be lowered is dictated by underground structures and utilities, and clearances for the trail and trolley wire.
Someone asked whether an underpass was considered instead of a bridge. Yes, it was considered, ST officials said safety, cost (and the need to close it after hours), and bicycle accessibility (grade difference getting to the Burke-Gilman Trail) were main concerns. Also, a few vocal people opposed an underpass.
UW Station will have parking space for 130 bicycles. All of the racks will be underneath the overpass beside the station. There will be no lockers, though a survey for bicyclists at the open house asked whether they prefer racks, lockers (annual or on-demand), or cages (annual or on-demand) at UW Station.
The Burke-Gilman Trail will pass under the landbridge like Pacific Place but the trail will be separate from the street and sidewalks, and will be higher than the street. Trail users can access the landbridge by two gentle sloped paths, one on each side of the landbridge.
Bus Stops and Crosswalks
The location of bus stops and service was the first question raised after the presentation. Sound Transit’s Tracy Reed said that the public process of determining bus route and service changes will occur about 18 months before U-Link opens.
There will be a new bus stop for Route 44 to Ballard directly under the overpass on the westside of Montlake Blvd. It is accessible by stairs and an elevator to the overpass above, or by existing crosswalks. The layover area for buses on Pacific Place will remain and serve as a drop off point for buses. There are currently no plans for a bus stop on the eastside of Montlake Blvd in front of the station. However, there is space for future widening of Montlake Blvd or bus stop pullouts so placing a stop there later should not require major work.
The sidewalk in front of the Medical Center will be widened to create more space for waiting bus riders. Eastbound buses will stop in the HOV lane instead of pulling out of and trying to merge back in to traffic. The westbound bus stop on the small island will be moved about 200 feet closer to the station. As mentioned earlier, both stops will be connected to UW Station by a new crosswalk and path to the bridge. The existing crosswalk at Montlake and Pacific will be wider and more perpendicular to the street, reducing crossing time.
Overall, I like the new design. Reaction to the new design at the open house was positive. Adam’s route directness calculations show this plan is more direct than the other proposals. The regional bicycle trail network is better connected. I am excited at the opportunities from a new public plaza in the middle of the currently underused Triangle. The landbridge creates a cohesive corridor from the central campus at Red Square all the way to Husky Stadium. The new design does many things right in terms of pedestrian and bicycle access, with room for future improvement.