The city of Tukwila and its partners are committed to transforming Southcenter into an area more friendly to bus transit, commuter rail, bicylists and pedestrians, envisioning a truly urban center of varied neighborhoods. One of the centerpieces of this plan is the conversion of Baker Boulevard into a complete street, anchored by a new pedestrian bridge over the Green River. The bridge would connect the new Sounder/Amtrak station that breaks ground Monday to a new Transit Center at Andover Park West and Baker Boulevard (in front of Southcenter Mall).
The new bridge, Transit Center and street makeover are all separate projects that will help lay the groundwork for the development of a new transit-oriented neighborhood. According to Lynn Miranda, project manager of the overarching Southcenter Plan, 30% of the design for the pedestrian bridge is completed, and she expects the 60% design milestone in late summer or early fall. The NEPA/SEPA process starts in a few weeks.
“The design is anticipated to be completed by March 2014,” Miranda said. “Tukwila received a grant of approximately $4.6m which will be available starting July 1 to apply toward right-of-way acquisition and construction. Our application was for a 4 year project, and at this point the project is in the starting slot for a future award of $2.27m in the 2015-2017 biennium.”
Cyndy Knighton, project manager for the bridge, went into even more detail, adding that design completion milestones may take longer than anticipated. She emphasized that these numbers are only estimates, but the bridge could reduce vehicle trips by over 99,000 annually, and also reduce vehicle miles traveled by 1.1m. Furthermore, Knighton pointed out that the pedestrian bridge over Green River could reduce shuttle trips that area hotels provide to patrons, as well as increase access to the Sounder station (although that depends on the station revamping, a sizable caveat).
“We think having this bridge will open up more development on the Green River…and see it as a big help for dense, pedestrian-friendly urban center, since it opens up different kinds of development possibilities,” Knighton said. “It’s funded through design, and we think design and environmental planning may go through March, but all of my estimates are absolutely just estimates. While we are at 30% design at the moment, things can and do change substantially between now and the next milestones.”
In order to move it forward, the bridge will require further coordination with Sound Transit, the city of Renton, and the Union Pacific and Burlington Northern Railroads for funding and planning, since building a beautiful new bridge won’t do much good unless it easily connects to transit and other appealing destinations.
Knighton also told me more about the transit center, as she is its project manager as well. The project is much further along:
The design is complete and I am just now getting the right of way acquisition completed – literally. The last documents are being signed by the Mayor hopefully this week. Current anticipated date to put the project on ad for contractor bids is this fall with construction being done next year.
She mentioned that the center was originally supposed to be completed by September 2013, yet “really intensely complicated underground utility conflicts” and right-of-way acquisition issues delayed the process.
The project is more complex than it may appear on the surface; it’s three separate capital improvement projects combined, according to Knighton. Andover Park West Widening, Andover Park West Water Main Replacement, and the Tukwila Transit Center all blend together into one larger project. The former two expand and replace the water line from Strander Boulevard to Tukwila Parkway, add some more turn-pockets, and widen the road mostly to the east into two lanes in both directions, Knighton said.
“Instead of a two-way center left turn lane running the length of the Strander-to-Tukwila Parkway section, the project will be implementing access management by using landscaped medians and restricting most driveways to right-in/right-out operations,” Knighton said. “This is because this particular stretch of roadway has a much higher than average collision history which can be significantly improved through access management. The landscaped medians will do double duty of discouraging jaywalking.”
In addition, the southbound zone will lengthen into two large separate bays to accommodate up to three coaches, Knighton said. The northbound zone will be a bus pullout. The stop will also include ORCA readers, RapidRide F-Line real-time data (debuting in June), and two pedestrian plaza areas connected with a “colored and stamped concrete intersection”. This is a big improvement over the current station:
“There will be a significant increase in shelter and seating space and a clear delineation between the transit center and the adjacent public parking areas is a key feature of the design,” Knighton stated. “There is a lot of crime and loitering that the adjacent property owners (and the City) are hoping to minimize, so between keeping public and private separate, we will be significantly improving lighting levels and installing a lot of CCTV cameras.”
Finally, the transition of Baker Boulevard into a multi-use trail will consist of expanding access to both the trail and the transit center through bike lanes and increased signage, with eventual plans to develop an independent paved bike route also accessible by pedestrians (rendering it truly multi-use). Wider sidewalks and on-street parking in order to encourage its use as a retail and pedestrian-friendly thoroughfare are also planned.
Part 2 of the series will focus on the city’s ambitious rezone and gridding of the area.