Tukwila’s transformation into a full-fledged urban center is charging full steam ahead. The major components of the effort roughly divvy up into the construction of Tukwila Village, and transformation of Tukwila International Boulevard (TIB) into a true transportation corridor with improved safety, sidewalks, and transit access.

Specifically: increased access to the new light rail station; reduction of Tukwila’s crime rate; and revitalizing the neighborhood around South 144th St. and TIB by adding a library, a police resource center, plaza/park, and residential/retail spaces.

The recent First Quarter Update  relates what progress has occurred:

1: The Transportation Corridors Comp Plan element will refocus on TIB, when reviewed in 2014, with further updates. The various committees executing the overall Comp Plan will work on its elements from April-July 2013, with the city council considering possible changes from August to October.

Tukwila Village Location

In addition, a public safety-oriented sidewalk policy will be established. Most recently, the city of Tukwila also approved an ordinance (login may be required for access to the ordinance text) for acquisition of up to 7 properties along TIB, including condemnation if necessary.

“We are indeed completing our appraisals and will start negotiations with the property owners in the next few weeks,” said Derek Speck, Tukwila economic development administrator. “This summer we will go to council for direction in terms of what the city would do with the properties once we’ve acquired them.”

Screenshot 2013-07-09 at 12.00.34 PMSpeck stated it was a sensitive issue for property owners, but he expected some motels to be demolished and overall “properties will be used for better things”.

Speck stated that ‘traditional policing models’ had not improved matters over the past couple decades, and implied the condemnation was also justified by the continuing high rates of crime, pointing at one example in particular.

“In terms of others in general who may view condemnation as abuse of government power, I don’t expect they will be very convincing in this case since these properties facilitate so much horrible crime,” he said. “If you look at our project website you can see how much crime happens at these motels as compared to others in Tukwila.”

He further added: “We are not currently doing any rezoning in that area.  We will work through the public process to  amend our comp plan for that area in 2014 and 2015. I predict we will have some zoning changes in 2015 and 2016.”

Further progress:

2: The Finance and Safety committee will inspect the consultant selection and contract for the Facilities Needs Assessment in the second quarter.

3: For the Parks, Recreation and Open Space Plan, a consultant has been selected, and various community workshops, surveys, and focus groups will begin.

4: Finally, the design review for the library as part of the Tukwila Village initiative was submitted on April 17th, with complete design review for the first phase shortly following.

“Tukwila Village is a real project that will be adding a community gathering place,” Speck said. “It will also add new, higher quality apartments.  As we demolish some of the motels, we will eliminate the location of a lot of crime.  And, I predict as the City updates its comprehensive plan (by 2015) for this area, the vision will further embrace zoning and land use regulations that support a walkable, transit oriented neighborhood.”

Screenshot 2013-06-29 at 11.33.19 AMAs for the design review, residents will have a public meeting in mid-July to appraise the changes, according to Speck, after which they’ll go thte Board of Architecture Review for approval. More specific details, like building height, additional transit changes, and such, are forthcoming.

“We don’t have a more user friendly general document and nothing with how many jobs and residents this area could attract.  Maybe we’ll generate that during the comp plan amendment next year,” said Speck.

Screenshot 2013-06-29 at 11.36.49 AM

The overall push is laudable. Indeed, given Tukwila is so diverse and yet economically disadvantaged, transformation into a truly urban center, with plenty of transit access and walkability, could improve things. Tukwila seems to be making a real push for renewal, so hopefully it continues successfully.

44 Replies to “Tukwila International Boulevard Transformation”

  1. Tukwila Village (S. 144th) could have been directly by LINK, if Tukwila did not object to the original routing on Tukwila Int’l Blvd (instead of using the basically useless Freeway alignment with no stops). Opponents said that LINK would kill people (the cars on TIB already do that). I did hear that Tukwila did eventually had second thoughts on the freeway alignment at the end, but it was already too late to change the alignment.

    1. After seeing LINK at grade on MLK Way (and down SODO busway), I’m glad they didn’t route it down International Blvd. LRT should be grade separated, always.

      1. But if it could have been grade-separated along International Blvd, the extra time to stop at 144th would have been made up for by the extra three minutes the trains take to go so slowly through all the curves (even though the safest speed for those curves, due to their tilt, is faster than what the trains are doing).

        At any rate, Tukwila will never recover economically from its big oops of saying no to Link service.

    2. So much lost potential between Rainier Beach and Tuktila International Blvd Stations. Such a shame.

      1. I agree. A real shame how Rainer Beach station turned out. It seems as if it were planned with blindfolds on. The alignment is just horrible.

    3. So True. Mayor Rantz and his Chief of Police put the kabosh on Link down 99 with a stop at 144th. Now with the Sounder Station fiasco, and the TIBS dysfunctional operation, Tukwila joins Renton in getting virtually nothing out of Sound Transit of any value that Metro couldn’t or didn’t provide for much less taxation.

      1. Why did the mayor and the chief stop link from going down 99 with the stop at 144th? I would think the commuters would have benefited the business and shopping districts. Crime fears?

      2. It’s because Tukwila had recently renovated the boulevard and didn’t want it torn up again so soon. So another case of municipalities failing to consider transit potential in their renovations in the first place, and only looking at traffic and car access.

        Tukwila has a similar opportunity right now. As I commented in the Southcenter station area article, now is the time for Tukwila to plan a right of way for Link through Southcenter while it’s rezoing the area anyway, so that it doesn’t make this same mistake again when it comes time to debate the Burien-Renton line. That would also lower the cost of the line significantly, which would make it more likely to happen.

  2. I just did a walkscore comparison between TIBS, and the much maligned future Bellevue Station, that is “so far away from everything.” TIBS walkscore: 54. Bellevue Station walkscore: 94.

  3. So it’s mostly garage, with some parking on top and a library and clinic? It’s a little dense for car oriented development, but it’s still car oriented development (but with good access to transit). Not that I’d expect anyone to go carless in that area.

    The real problem is the international boulevard itself. It’s an unwalkable nightmare. Put that thing on a massive road diet, allow buildings to be built right up to the edge, and maybe even sell off some right of way, and Tukwila will have a chance to be an interesting area. Otherwise these are just suburban apartments in a sea of strip malls next to what amounts to a freeway.

    1. With the airport and 518 as the southern border and I-5 to the east, the TIB/144th neighborhood will always be challenged to evolve as a pleasant, safe and walkable community. Traffic, noise and environmental pollution are going to be part of the neighborhood vibe forever. Even if the troublesome motel strip is bulldozed and something is built to replace it, there are plenty of cheap motel nearby to provide cover for the pimps and drug dealers currently using that area.

      1. See the crazy gondola idea below. The closest freeway to this area is actually 1/2 a mile away – pretty far when you’re discussing the pedestrian scale (for comparison, Cap Hill’s Broadway is 1/2 a mile from I-5). I could imagine wiping out most everything in a 1/4 mile radius from a gondola station and starting over with dense, car-lite construction complete with residential and retail. I’m generally not a fan of trying to build dense areas away from city centers, but for those that are this might be a good case for it.

  4. When I googled Tukwila Village, it took me to the city of Tukwila’s website. Here’s what they say about the project.

    “Located at the intersection of Tukwila International Boulevard and South 144th Street, Tukwila Village is within 10 minutes of downtown Seattle, 5 minutes to SeaTac Airport, and walkable to the new light-rail station. The neighborhood around Tukwila Village is one of the most unrecognized values in the Seattle office and residential markets.”

    “Walkable to the new light-rail station.” Tukwila Village is 3500 feet from TIBS. But people in this comment section were saying the 200 feet between Bellevue Station and BTC is too great of a distance. If 3500 is walkable, why isn’t 200 feet?

    1. 3,500 feet of walking along TIB is walkable in the same sense that the English Channel is swimmable. It’s certainly possible, but you won’t catch me out there.

      1. Not even to ride the Tukwila Village Gondola, with direct access to the mezzanine level of TIBS?

      2. Damn you and your sensible ideas. 3 minutes to Tukwila Village, 6 minutes to the Southcenter Mall. They’d have to build up Tukwila Village a whole lot more to have this make sense, though the mall traffic alone might make this worth it.

    2. The issue is transferring, transferring, transferring. It’s an inefficient but not horrible inconvenience to get off the train and walk to Bellevue Square. And somebody can transfer to a local bus if they don’t want to walk it. The main problem arises when your destination is not within walking distance, when you have to transfer to a bus in the middle of your trip, like if your destination is Crossroads. That’s where the distance from platforms to bus stops goes from minor to major. Getting to the stop at the beginning/end of a trip is arguably your problem, not the transit system’s problem. But transferring in the middle is the transit system’s problem, and has to be considered part of the travel time. In Seattle there’s a similar problem at Madison Street, which is halfway between two Link stations and three blocks away from either of them. Such a major street — now designated for BRT — should have had its own station, or University Street station should have been moved a block or two southward.

      1. One result of this may be that Hospital station and Overlake Village station may become more popular transfer points to RapidRide B than the “transit center” that was supposed to have the best transfer experience.

      2. I would wager that the time it will take to walk from Bellevue Station to BTC is the same amount of time (or even less) than getting from the DSTT to connect to 3rd Ave buses, or even getting from TIBS down to the lower bus bays. In other words, Bellevue Station IS at the BTC. When you translate the 200 feet distance into time, it’s comparable to other train/bus transfer locations.

      3. 3500 is still close enough that, assuming a 15-minute-headway bus, especially one with bunching and no signal priority, walking is still at least as fast as waiting for the bus. Plus, if you’re running late, you can run.

        Also, I haven’t been through that part of town before, but if the sidewalks are wide enough to safely bike on, that would get you to the station faster than anything.

      4. Err… yeah. As usual, your understanding of actual behavior by actual humans vis-à-vis transit and the surrounding environment is grossly out of touch with reality.

        This development is going to house people who live in south King, work in south King, and drive basically everywhere. For the reason Matt cites, this will not attract people with the slightest interest in walking daily to the train.

        These residents won’t use the train for anything but the occasional sporting event. They will never, ever set foot on a bus.

      5. Sam, for the zillionth time:

        It’s not 200 feet. It’s minimum 400 and maximum 1000, depending on the location of your connection.

        TIBS is a fucking transit disaster, and Westlake station is so overbuilt that people now insist on building a slow, winding, redundant, stupid streetcar because Westlake has taught them to consider subways “inconvenient”.

        And neither of those transfer penalties is nearly as far as the one coming to a downtown Bellevue near you.

        It must be so sad for you to be “the most important person who as ever commented on this blog”, and yet to be [ad hom]

      6. I never said that the people who live in this development would be walking to the train in droves. Of course this is going to be primarily people who drive around in South King and don’t ride transit, as if you want a transit commute to downtown for work, there are lots of better places to live than this.

        All I was saying was that if somebody living there did want to take the train, walking there will be at least as fast as waiting for a bus.

        Nevertheless, it is not the goal of the “transit” aspect of the development to have everyone who lives there taking transit everywhere – rather, the goal is to merely to create a transit option for those want it. And for people with jobs in South King that want transit, more homes to choose from that are at least somewhat transit accessible is still a good thing. Even if only one person out of 500 living in that building rides the bus for a daily commute (which would be a transit modeshare lower than even places like Houston) the option to ride the bus or walk to Link is still there.

      7. Fair enough. I agree with all of that.

        A mixed-use development of any sort is certainly better than the segregated uses that have previously defined Tukwila. All I’m really saying here is “let’s not kid ourselves” about how an oasis in a sea of pedestrian hostility will really function.

        It’s only a short logical leap from the delusions expressed in the top graphic to the attempt to sell billion-dollar rail lines to the “future urban centers” of Issaquah and Federal Way, while places with existing activity and demand get bypassed or shortchanged.

      8. Let’s be clear that we can’t expect idyllic oases everywhere, and that “creating a transit option for those who want it” is a worthwhile goal in itself. This is sometimes neglected by transit fans in their focus on hub urban villages and train-station areas. Reversing single-use zoning everywhere is another important goal.

        I’m hoping that the library is a 5-minute walk from the station or less, not a 10-minute walk at 144th. It may not matter much for this particular library because Burienites and Rentonites have other libraries closer to them, but it irks me when libraries are not on main transit routes, like the Shoreline library and Boulevard Park library. The Shoreline library is so isolated from the bulk of Shoreline’s population that I’d almost cry to live there and have that as my only close library.

      9. The entire project is a 10-minute walk from non-awful transit, along the worst street on earth. “Oasis” was the correct word, inasmuch as some mixed-used functions will be pleasantly accessible to those already on-site. But that is the sum-total of the improvement.

        There are hundreds of thousands of people in who would already have access to “a transit option for those who want it”, if we focused on developing the one kind of human habitation where transit and the built environments can complement and enhance each other: the city. But instead we ignore the city and pretend that outposts like “Tukwila Village” will mean a damn in the aggregate.

        This, like most projects that claim to be “TOD-from-nothing”, is delusional.

  5. Between the 124 and the 128, the transit options between Tukwila Village and TIBS are and will be disappointing and disjointed (i.e. riders having to guess where to wait). Throwing in a straightened 132 would help, albeit still not creating headway between the two sites. I hate to suggest altering the 128’s routing to have it do a Figure 8 between Tukwila Village and the transit center at TIBS, but that would improve headway between the sites. If it could just stop on Southcenter Blvd and not loop into the parking lot, total trip time for those being dropped off would be about the same, total trip time for those being picked up would be cut by a couple minutes, and trip time for 128 through riders would also improve by a couple minutes, even with a 144th/International-Boulevard/Southcenter-Boulevard/42nd-Ave-S/144th loop-de-loop.

    Adding a new route to serve south Riverton Heights between TIBS and Burien TC might be more successful than the backward loop 129 just serving a stretch of single-family roads that was such a flop, and unlike that flop of a loop, would actually serve the clinic on 146th (which isn’t that much of a ridership source, but those riders are transit-dependant and should definitely not be pushed into being behind the wheel).

    A variation on the straightened 132 theme is to have it do a similar loop-de-loop before serving south Riverton Heights. That would preserve the one-seat-ride between South Park and Burien, and give more riders access direct access to TIBS as well as Tukwila Village, but at a cost of adding probably another 20 minutes to the route.

    The library already there is nice, and right where it needs to be (next to a high school).

    1. I suppose Metro could just loop RR-F up there and back without anyone noticing another asinine deviation (spelled mutation) to an already screwball route.

    2. Anyone living there that has a car (if they ride the train at all) will probably take advantage of the free parking and drive. For those that don’t, the solution is walking and biking. To make this safe, we need wide sidewalks and good street lighting. 148th Ave. in Bellevue is a good example of an arterial with wide enough sidewalks to be reasonably pedestrian and bike friendly, even if biking on the road itself is undesirable. In addition to sidewalk width, we needs lots of night lighting plus, ideally, some businesses along the way that generate at least a modicum of foot traffic.

      In the present state of the area, fear of crime would prevent most people from ever wanting to walk from the station to the development area at night, but just because it’s like that today doesn’t necessarily mean it has to be like that forever.

  6. I’m just waiting until they put mixed-use development in the McDonald’s lot and the strip mall and pancake house across the street. Those are the station’s primary walkshed. Hopefully this “amending our comp plan in 2014 and 2015” will include this.

      1. The view from the platform of TIBS must be protect in all directions, in perpetuity! (That includes being able to see the McDonalds.)

      2. Maybe they can put a mini Space Needle on top of the McDonald’s and apply for landmark status.

  7. Everybody seems to be heaping shame on Tukwila for not opting for good Link service when it had the chance; okak, everyone, we get it. Hindsight is always 20/20.

    Good for Tukwila for at least putting forth a visible effort to attempt to remediate some of its troubles along that stretch of 99.

      1. My guess would be the location of TIBS itself is to blame – right next to the freeway, along a deserted stretch of 99 with only Link infrastructure and some airport operations stuff.

      2. Okay, perhaps. At least this effort goes so far as to attempt to answer the inevitable follow-up to that statement: “Well, now what?”

    1. Sounds like one of those quarter measures that get pilloried on http://systemicfailure.wordpress.com/ all the time. Oh there are some sidewalks. Precious. Some “dense development” on top of parking garages. Open space for parking and some green side salad. What a happy little village!

    2. Good for Tukwila to consider remediating its own mistake in not including station area design in its boulevard renovation plan. The plan may have predated the specific Link alignment but I think Tukwila had a general idea it might be coming.

      I couldn’t believe ST was putting a transfer station in the middle of nowhere. It was clearly all about the park & ride. But the station area is not “hopeless”: it only takes a decision by Tukwila to realize its potential. TIB could become an urban village, and it would have been better to start that in 2003 when real-estate money was free-flowing. The entire International Boulevard and Pacific Highway could become a string of TOD (with exceptions for the airport itself and its parking lots and motels), and that would change RapidRide A’s ridership from 50% over the 174 to full and possibly overcrowded like the 358 is.

  8. Keep it coming…we can keep building mini-urban centers all down the west coast of Washington to Centralia and beyond!

    Let’s get hourly rail between Portland and BC!

    Let’s reduce the high cost of living, and speed up travel with even minimal HSR.

  9. What are the elements that really make regional transit work?

    Closely mixed uses. Some level of density. Ubiquitous, safe, convenient, pleasant pedestrian access. Comprehensive, straightforward local transit.

    And for regional transit you want there to be destinations of regional importance or appeal. And you want that transit to take you to destinations of regional importance or appeal.

    It is, of course, frustrating that it’s taking us so long to bring regional transit to the places that come closest to all those other elements, because regional transit would reinforce all these things. It’s fine to try to bring these things up in Tukwila but the obstacles are huge and it’s pretty hard to pick up the pace.

  10. “15 minutes by bus/rail to SeaTac airport” is a joke. I suppose it has a grain of truth to it if you only count the in-vehicle time. Add in 5 minutes walking to the bus, 10 minutes waiting for the bus (*), 5 minutes waiting for the train, and 5 minutes walking from the train to the airport, and the 15 minute commute has suddenly turned into a 40 minute commute. Even if you took a bike to the station, brought it on the train, and rode it down the walkway to the airport, you would still be looking at 20-25 minutes door-to-door, depending on how long you have to wait for the train.

    (*) Even if you pay attention to the schedules, arriving at a bus stop 5 minutes early for a bus that is 5 minutes late is already a 10-minute wait time. You may be able to do better than this if you’re lucky, but you can’t possibly plan on it. Even with OBA, you can, at best, substitute a couple minutes of waiting at the stop with a couple minutes of waiting at home. For the return trip, you can’t even do that.

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