120th Station area
120th Station area

Last Thursday evening, over a hundred community members showed up to attend Sound Transit’s kick-off open house for East Link final design, beginning with the Bel-Red corridor segment.  The project is nearing the 60% design mark, at which point specific design elements for stations, trackways, etc. will be refined and new cost estimates modeled.  Thursday’s open house zeroed in on Bel-Red and East Link’s integration into the City of Bellevue’s vision for the neighborhood.

The Bel-Red corridor redevelopment has been a major planning initiative in Bellevue for quite some time now.  The area is expected to add 5,000 new housing units and 10,000 new employees over the next two decades.  In response, the City is upgrading the infrastructure, with a network of rebuilt streets and a new grid with East Link at the centerpiece.  Let’s take a look at the designs of the two stations, which have already progressed quite a bit.

120th will be the westernmost station in Bel-Red and the transit hub of Wright Runstad’s Spring District TOD project.  Currently, the station is situated below grade within a retained cut profile, subject to an agreement between ST and Wright Runstad.  This would make all of East Link through Bellevue grade-separated at every crossing west of 130th Station, a fairly remarkable feat particularly considering most of the alignment is at-grade.

Like International District Station, 120th will be open-air and “daylighted”– which is an important design component, according to the LMN architect working on the project.  Nonetheless, much of the platform would still be covered by either the station structure itself or canopies, offering weather protection for riders.

130th Station interim and future designs
130th Station interim and future designs

Looking eastward, 130th is Bel-Red’s second Link station and would run at-grade, similar to the existing Rainier Valley stations.  Two design phases have already been drafted– an interim station design prior to the construction of the new NE 16th Street (through which Link will run), and a future station design after the completion of the street– indicating that construction of the two projects will likely not occur in conjunction with one another.

Unlike 120th, 130th Station is being envisioned as more of a commuter station.  In addition to a 300-stall park-and-ride, Sound Transit is also planning significant bike storage, with racks, lockers, and even a bike cage that would be housed within an ancillary structure.  The bike plaza would sit at the southeast corner of the parking lot and could conceivably accommodate vendors as well.

In line with recent renamings of other planned Link stations, ST is also seeking public input on the Bel-Red station names.  The process will largely hinge on criteria established by an ST Board resolution made last year, which specified basic guidelines like name brevity, ADA compliance, neighborhood identity, etc.  Given the general remoteness of the station locations (at least in today’s context), I can’t see how anyone could have particularly strong feelings one way or the other.  At any rate, you can make your suggestions known here.

Sound Transit is soliciting any other comments on final design through Thursday (tomorrow) and will incorporate them into a public comment summary to be released next week.  For more on the design plans and drawings, the East Link document archive has a wealth of information, including all the display boards that were shown at the open house.

28 Replies to “Sound Transit Kicks Off East Link Final Design”

      1. plus it says “2023,” which makes sense year-wise.

        (and that IS a long time to wait)

  1. I suggested Clancy Station for 120th Ave and Dempsey Station for 130th Ave, since those were the street names before King County laid the number grid on the area.

    1. Why is everyone stuck on neighborhood names and former street names for station stops? It makes no sense to those who are not familar with the area. Or even if you are, you still have no idea where you’re actually going to be dropped off. 120th Ave and 130th Ave is far more descriptive and would be even more so if it included the cross street.

      Central Link’s “University of Washington Station” makes no sense either. Great, it drops me off by the stadium, no in the heart of UW. Then you have “U District Station”. Once again, where? North U District? South? Oh, right it’s between 43rd and 45th on Brooklyn. Why not just state that?

      “65th and Roosevelt” versus “Roosevelt Station” (crap, that’s not even the right neighborhood. That’s more Ravenna than Roosevelt, and even then, where on Roosevelt does it drop you off based on the station name?)

      I have an idea. Let’s just make the learning curve of using transportation just a little harder so that people won’t use it or continue with the status quo of shitty bus service.

      1. I prefer names to numbers because numbers repeat throughout the metro area while names are more memorable and can be unique.

        On their suggestion page, the good folks at Sound Transit even get confused themselves and suggest 120th *Street* and 130th *Street* Stations, instead of Avenue.

      2. I agree. I tend to prefer station names that include cross-streets– that gives a strong orientation to the grid.

      3. Neighborhoods can end up being defined by their station names. In this age of computers and smartphones, people can figure out which stations to get off at. Also, Roosevelt Station is most certainly more Roosevelt than Ravenna, it is literally across the street from Roosevelt high school and in the very center of the Roosevelt business district.

      4. The stations are ideally in the center of the neighborhood and over time become the defining gateway and identity of the neighborhood. U-District, Capitol Hill, Roosevelt, and Beacon Hill stations meet that criteria. UW, Northgate, and Columbia City stations are arguably badly located, but they are the designated transit center/gateway for their neighborhoods, and the station areas can be densified over time so they’ll look more like a center. In Othello station’s case, a new neighborhood is rising around the station, and Rainier & Othello had already lost any centerness it earlier had.

        On Bel-Red Road we can’t say where the centers will be because they don’t exist yet, but the 120th developer is doing the right thing by focusing the neighborhood around the rail line. As for 130th, I think the station should be deferred, but if that won’t happen and the P&R will be long-term, it does build on the good idea of keeping P&Rs away from neighborhood centers. (South Bellevue and Bellevue TC have it right: put the TC downtown so people can walk to destinations, or walk to the TC and get a one-seat ride. P&R drivers are going to the city and don’t need to be in a neighborhood center, and they won’t transfer between lines because their car is the “transfer”. Renton, Burien, and Lynnwood TCs are messed up because their P&Rs displace walkable density and bring more cars to the center. Better to have an urban TC and a peripheral P&R.)

        Bellevue TC and South Bellevue P&R have it right: is good in this sense; the P&R is isolated and the TC is downtown, so people can somewhere while they’re waiting for a transfer, or walk to the TC and avoid a transfer. P&R drivers are going someplace far, and won’t transfer at the P&R because they have their car.)

        Renton, Burien, and Lynnwood transit centers are bad because both the P&Rs and TCs are downtown, displacing walkable density and bringing cars downtown.)

      5. Of course it depends where you are going at the University of Washington, but the station will be convenient to the medical center and related buildings and the stadium. With the next station is 45th and Brooklyn I think most trips I have made to the UW in the last decade would lead me to the UW station. It would be nice to have a stop in red square, but then a lot of local workers would have to commute onto campus to get to the subway.

        I think the cross street naming makes more sense in a grid. 45th and Brooklyn makes sense, but I’d have a hard time figuring out where Montlake and Pacific was without consulting a map.

        Why did I think there were going to be two stations on capitol hill?

      6. @alexjonlin – Google Maps defines Ravenna’s boundries (probably based on the ZIP Code) and it most definitely includes 65th and Roosevelt. Then again, when you search Roosevelt, it’s just a smaller subset of Ravenna. More to my point – confusion. Hell, I’ve lived in this city long enough where I should know some neighborhood boundaries and clearly I’m wrong here. I would not take the Roosevelt station to get to Ravenna based purely on name. But if the station was named 65th and Roosevelt, then I know it would be close enough to where I needed to go.

        Also, you cannot assume that everyone has easy access to smartphones. I hate that so much about my generation. It’s a great tool, but there is still a huge digital divide in our society.

        @Mike Orr – That’s great that stations are defining neighborhoods, but as Seattle and its neighborhoods continue to grow and densify, the names are meaningless. Where in this neighborhood is this dropping me off? When I get out of the station, do I know to walk north? South? East? West? By naming the stations after intersections, I have a visual representation in my head of where I am in our “grid” and can make a better, informed, decision as to which way I now need to walk.

      7. Someone else mentioned here, can’t seem to find it (hopped up on allergy meds) that we could just include the intersection with the station name. Such as above the door with the Central Link transit map. Station name in bold, but then it could provide the major intersection the station is at as well in ()’s.

        I still stand by naming stations solely after neighborhoods is a horrible idea.

      8. Please tell me that buses serving the 130th St. station will get to stay on the street rather than wasting the time of every thru-rider to deviate into the station’s parking lot. If the station design makes this impractical, the time to fix it is now.

      9. What buses, what through? This is an isolated P&R lot not S. Kirkland P&R. You park, you get out of your car, you get on the train; end of story. Well, other than the P&R paving over Geoff Creek ST and COB claim they are daylighting with the Bel-Red development. Sort of like the daylighting at the old Kmart site… new concrete culvert with asphalt on top. But hey, you can go look at the salmon in the refrigerated section of the new Walmart.

      10. Are you seriously suggesting that there will not be a single bus route down the new 15th St.?

      11. Why would there be. You can take Link to BTC or Overlake and catch a bus to anywhere. There’s buses on NE20 & Bel-Red, a 1/4 mile away that have next to no ridership. NE 15th/16th isn’t going to go anywhere. It turns north and Tees into NE 20th just past the P&R and the City plans for a large chunk of that area to be park. The entire purpose of the road is to feed office workers in cars into the Spring District. And as far as North/South forget it. There’s no thru street until 140th and there’ll never be one.

      12. “we could just include the intersection with the station name”

        I suggested that. Put the intersection in smaller letters below the station name, and have the verbal announcement say, “U-District station, NE 43rd Street & Brooklyn Avenue NE”.

  2. Why are they making the 130rd St station at grade? How can they expect to make Light rail time competitive to buses (much less cars) on 520 when the train will have to stop at traffic lights? Or are they going to continue runinng the busses to/from redmond because of the long travel time through bel-red?

    1. It’s because to keep the capital cost down. Too many voters and politicians look mainly at capital costs rather than ongoing benefits, and it’s hard to get a tax rate approved that would allow full grade separation (or even driverless trains). Link is already going to be slower than the 542 and 545; there’s no way around it. Every line has some distances it’s competitive for and others it isn’t. Link will be time-competitive with express buses for Westlake-Lynnwood (and presumably Westlake-Everett), but not Westlake-SeaTac, Westlake-Federal Way, or Westlake-Tacoma, UW-Bellevue, or UW-Redmond. A different configuration could make it competitive for Westlake-Federal Way and Westlake-Tacoma, but only by bypassing Columbia City and Beacon Hill. So you have to choose one or the other, not both.

      This will give ST a big choice, and we don’t know which way it will go. (A) Keep the expresss buses with the same frequency/span. (B) Replace off-peak express buses with Link connections. (C) Replace all express buses with Link connections. The Link connections would have a longer travel time but more off-peak frequency (especially if the buses are turned into twice-as-frequent feeders). But it requires guts for ST to do this. The same issue surrounds Metro with the 101 and 150.

      1. But there are necessarily two things at grade crossings: the rail and the road. Sound transit and/or the city of Bellevue could say that 130rd ave will not have any crossings (using existing designs), and if developers want to build any roads they they are responsible for grade separating the roads then. It’s not like there are any roads there right now that are essential, it’s essential a neighborhood of auto repair shops– I doubt anyone would care if they have to go to bel-red road instead of northrup way or visa versa. Then whenever wallace wants to build his fancy spring district neighborood, he has to pay for building roads, and he’s not allowed to build roads where there are rails

      2. Wrong developer, it’s Wright Runstad that owns the old Safeway Distribution Center and wants to develop the Spring District. BTW, how’s that PacMed Building working out? Looks like the loggers though will be out at the old Group Health site within a month. Major slip ramp under 148th to 156th to follow shortly.

      3. I’m noticing that Rainier Valley’s at-grade stations (Columbia City, Othello and Henderson) seem to be more popular than the Grand Edifice at Mt. Baker. If it weren’t for the students at Franklin HS, it seems that Mt. Baker would be almost unused. I think at-grade stations should be the preferred alternative on future lines. They might not be the best choice for all situations, but I think Rainier Valley riders are showing what people prefer.

      4. One possibility could be to keep the 542, but let Link replace the 545. It’s a bit counter-intuitive, since the 545 carries a lot more riders than the 542, the trips between Redmond and downtown are more easily replaceable with Link than trips between Redmond and the U-district because if you’re going downtown, I-90 is much less of a deviation.

        On paper, 520 make look faster than Link, but you cannot forget that people’s ultimate destination is the center of downtown, not the I-5/Stewart St. exit ramp. The 545 can be very fast getting from Redmond to the exit ramp, but once it leaves the freeway, it slows to a crawl – it often actually takes the 545 longer to get from King St. station to the I-5 on-ramp than it does to get from the I-5 on-ramp all the way to Redmond.

        U-district, on the other hand, Link is projected to take a full 30 minutes longer than the 542. This is too much of a time penalty to make Link the only off-peak option, except late at night.

      5. East Link will be a good replacement for the 545, because the frequency will be much higher. Remember that Central Link is actually slightly slower than the old 194, but the 194 only ran every half hour, which effectively added an average of 15 minutes to your trip.

        Peak commute reliability should also be improved. Not to mention comfort — there is not room for everyone to sit during that time, and it’s not fun to be standing on an express bus.

        I’m totally unfamiliar with the 542, so I don’t know what should happen to that one.

      6. “I’m noticing that Rainier Valley’s at-grade stations (Columbia City, Othello and Henderson) seem to be more popular than the Grand Edifice at Mt. Baker.”

        I’ve noticed that too, but look at the walk circle around Mt Baker station. It’s still suburban-style detatched fast-food joints and an auto-oriented strip mall, and most of the housing is beyond the high school and single-family. This will change as the blocks are developed but it will take a decade.

      7. “Sound transit and/or the city of Bellevue could say that 130rd ave will not have any crossings (using existing designs), and if developers want to build any roads they they are responsible for grade separating the roads then.”

        That would be wonderful but it’s so not going to happen. We can’t even get rid of parking on 45th or Aurora or 15th W for transit lanes. And developers don’t build roads anyway (except private lanes within their property). So it would be the city telling the city that transit has priority. Don’t hold your breath waiting or you’ll suffocate.

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