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Mike Orr contributed to this report.

Last night at Olympic View Elementary, Sound Transit presented 90% complete designs for the Northgate Link station. Since opening day is still seven years off, some of the discussion was focused on construction mitigation.  The station’s planned artwork was also revealed.

The station design clearly benefits from lessons learned designing other Link stations over the past few years.  Like SeaTac station, it has a center platform, making it easy to switch trains. This will be important as Northgate will serve as a station for both trains to SeaTac as well as Bellevue and Redmond. Unlike Mt. Baker station, it features an excellent transit connection – buses will pull up right on the ground floor. It will also, however, still feature a mezzanine for station access.

Though partially hemmed in by the mall and I-5, the station has decent access into the Northgate and Maple Leaf neighborhoods, as well as Thornton Place. Transit-oriented development is planned for the King County lot next-door.

One project that could further improve the walk shed is the (still yet unfunded) bike/pedestrian bridge crossing I-5. Bridge design started in January, and there will be a screening of alternatives in April and May, culminating in an open house in June. The projected cost is $25 million. SDOT and ST have each committed $5 million if the remainder is raised by July 2015; otherwise they’ll put the money into other ped/bike improvements in the area. SDOT is pursuing grants to help with the cost.

More photos below:

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53 Replies to “Northgate Station Design 90% Complete”

  1. Won’t the Airport and Eastside lines be heading in the same direction? Using transfers as a reason for a center platform seems like a non sequitur.

    1. I think one of the reasons they made it center platform was so they could push the columns as far west as possible in order to leave room below for the bus transfer facility.

    2. People coming from the north will be able to transfer to east link here. Pretty sure East link will terminate in Northgate.

      It will be another two years after opening before that matters though.

      1. Right but you wouldn’t need a center platform to do that, Linking center platforms and transferring implies that you have to cross the platform to transfer.

      2. East Link will terminate at Northgate off-peak and Lynnwood peak, according to the current plan. Opposite-direction transfers are not a major consideration here like they are at International District. But center platforms are always better to avoid the need to switch to the other platform unnecessarily (because you’re reversing direction or you went up the wrong escalator), so it’s good that this station is center platform for whatever reason.

      3. Also, plans can change over time as the system grows. The set of priorities they had for MAX in Portland was quite different than the order in which they wound up getting built. The line to the airport was originally pretty low on the priority list but then suddenly funds for it became available through a public-private development agreement and there seemed to be good reason to do it, so it was built 3rd. On the maps of the plans produced in the 1980s and early 1990s it was simply a gray line as a “possible future extension”. Those trains originally ran only to downtown Portland, but after not so very long it was realized that the whole system worked best with the trains going all the way to Beaverton.

        I don’t know exactly what plans would change here to make center platforms far more desirable, but it is always best to leave the options open. This is only an example, and would probably never be actually done, but suppose for example that the trains weren’t really full enough north of Northgate to operate all of them further north? They are powered by overhead wire, and a surface level branch line in Northgate Blvd could be built (I didn’t say should – just that it could) to the west a little ways to connect to RapidRide E. This would give passengers suffering through a not so rapid ride on the RapidRide a place to easily transfer to something that moves a bit faster, and would give a place to terminate trains not going further north a terminal station that would allow increased connectivity. Some passengers would then probably want to cross the platform for northbound trains.

        Not a great example, except that it shows you might want to keep your options open.

      1. But they increase the network’s usability, and that’s worth some cost. The more convenient the network is, the more people will use it and be satisfied with it, and the less they’ll avoid it.

      2. Being a terminal station for a couple years, at least you won’t have to decide which platform to go to.

      3. They should have back up elevators if they are going to be out of service as often as the elevators at the Central Link stations. How will disabled board and deboard when the elevator is broken? Switch to a bus and board at another station? Ride back and take a bus? That is just not right.

  2. There will also apparently be runnels for the stairs to bring your bike with you, as well as 100 bicycle parking locations divided between racks (40) cages (50) and lockers (10).

    Apparently the cages will be locked, requiring an orca card to access the room.

    1. There will be runnels and ORCA locks; the speaker mentioned them. However, I’m not sure if all three kinds of parking will be inside the lock, or just the cages.

      1. Yeah that’s what I got from the meeting as well. The 10 lockers probably have a different mechanism (similar to the ones currently in the Northgate P&R?)

  3. I seriously don’t get the obsession with mezzanines. They’re useless wastes of time. Aside from that it looks good, I’m glad it’s got a center platform too.

    1. The architect commented that it helps open up the ground level area. At the end of the Q&A, ST hinted at the possibility of ground level vendors. Mezzanine-level vendors are definitely out.

      1. I am not optimistic about ground-level vendors except, maybe, a similar setup to the Northgate TC coffee/hot dog stand.

        I wonder if that place does good business.

    2. It has to reach the track somehow, and the track height is based on more factors than just being second-story from the station floor, like nearby hills and highways and the trains’ incline limit. So eliminating the mezzanine would mean longer escalators and perhaps a loft design. That may or may not be better, but the point is you can’t just assume ST could lower the track to the second floor, or it probably would have done so in the first place.

      1. Absolutely. Let’s not forget that it is second-floor at the north side of the station, north of 103rd St.

      2. Please then tell me why Skytrain does not require a middle floor in their stations? It honestly is a waste of concrete that is simply not necessary and adds extra height to guideway columns. The bottom of the guideway needs to be high enough for large commercial vehicles to go under, but the policy of extra concrete needs to go.

  4. The projected cost [of the ped/bike bridge] is $25 million

    The number SDOT mentioned last night was $20 million, and the article you linked to says between $16.2 and $18.5 million.

    1. The SDOT rep last night told me before the presentation that they suspect the $18.5 million figure was underbudgeted, so they’re now suspecting it’ll be closer to $25 million.

    2. It may be worth looking at a tunnel rather than a bridge through there. One of the significant costs is the cost of all the approach ramps. Long bike/ ped tunnels aren’t great, but if it is all money will allow it may be best.

      Why cheaper? Because there is a method of tunneling through fill material that isn’t that bad in terms of cost. You wind up pumping liquid nitrogen into the fill material, so it freezes as hard as rock. You then use rock tunneling methods and can keep the traffic flowing above the tunneling work. They built a new ped/ bike tunnel under the Union Pacific main line this way in The Dalles not too long ago. No interruption to train traffic, and it cost something like $400,000 or some such – much cheaper than anything else they looked at anyway.

      Yes, this is a much longer distance, but it still may be worth a look.

      1. The SDOT rep yesterday said they had considered it briefly but realized that, between all the freeway ramps and underground utilities, it’d be really complicated and rather expensive to build.

        Plus, he said, tunnels are less popular to use than bridges. I disagree with him on that point, but the rest seems worth listening to.

      2. I’m not sure which I like least. To get under the part of I-205 that I live near, I have to take a sidewalk that’s always covered in trash that has blown off the freeway. The pedestrian bridge they built for the school traffic just north of there is OK, but the noise coming up off the freeway is horrific. I tend to use the tunnel-like underpass more often just because it is closer to where I usually need to go.

      3. Whether tunnels or bridges are more popular depends on their specific attributes. One bridge proposal included a direct connection to the station’s mezzanine level. Compared to a tunnel that basically connects 100th St:

        – It also crosses 1st Ave NE, which a tunnel probably wouldn’t.
        – It probably requires less total grade change for trips involving the station, but more for other trips.
        – Many trips involve either stairs or steep ramps.

        In general I’d say the tunnel would be better at reconnecting the street network and the bridge better at serving the train station. Since the street network is so poorly connected today, a single repair like this won’t bring it to the kind of standard that matters. If a generation of development and planning brings lots of public street network improvements on both sides of the freeway the benefits of a tunnel would be more clear.

        For me the big dream is a tunnel wide enough for two-way bus traffic in addition to bikes and pedestrians, creating a path across I-5 for routes 40, 345, and 346 that’s fast, direct, and maintains coverage of Meridian and the NSCC area. That would be a much bigger thing, though, at least 35 feet wide and probably closer to 40. Probably not plausible.

      4. In previous meetings, a tunnel vs bridge was discussed. Several women (and if they didn’t I would have) mentioned they would not use a tunnel because it doesn’t deter crime. If you are getting mugged on a bridge at least its out in the open.

      5. I can’t imagine a tunnel would fly with the general public. You can’t even build a park nowadays without ensuring it has end-to-end visibility and lots of lighting.

    1. Its about a block or so. You have to cross a couple streets. They have good sidewalks to the food court though so its rather nice for a mall.

      Much better than South Center, access wise.

    2. Charles’s wrong. All the photos are of the concourse at the south end of the station; from there, he’d be correct. However, there’s another entrance at the north end, north of 103rd St, which opens right into the mall parking lot. ST is talking with the mall about installing a covered walkway, maybe in connection with a new parking deck. But even if that’s not the case, you won’t have to cross any streets between the north entrance and the mall.

    3. fairly accessible– a mostly level aprox 500′ walk through the parking lot.

      the design is a huge improvement over the original plans, as the station has now been shifted north so that it spans over NE 103rd rather than being between 103rd + 104th–
      so exiting on foot north out of the station you stay elevated right across 103rd, which puts you at the level of the Mall.

    4. Malls, in general, are slowly dying due in part to the growth of online shopping. Upscale one’s, less so. One day in the future, perhaps 20 or 30 years from now, Northgate mall will be replaced with housing.

      1. I can’t wait…in fact, I’m surprised they haven’t transformed it into homes already.

        The mall would make a fantastic apartment complex and help to bring down costs.

        Having a LINK station in its midst should make it a done deal.

      2. I would like to see malls transform into something similar (though smaller scale) to what downtown is like. Tall shopping/business centers connected to or near by large apartment buildings.

  5. If I live in Seattle the rest of my life (maybe!) Northgate’s development will really be something to watch. Northgate today is mixed-use in the scale and mode of the last 50 years of suburban development. Within walking distance of the station there’s significant office space, significant retail, and a fair amount of housing. But it’s all much less than the sum of its parts. the offices are in a park that shuts off access along most of its perimeter and blocks people from walking through. The mall is much the same, but bigger (occupying almost a mile and a half of public street frontage!), and with activity concentrated on the inner portion of its mega-block (essentially an indoor, private, often-closed section of 3rd Ave NE) and parking concentrated around the edges.

    If, along 5th Ave NE, the fence adjoining the sidewalk around the office park and the parking lots adjoining the sidewalk around the mall aren’t replaced with things that extend an urban continuity between these places, bringing Northgate together into a cohesive neighborhood, I’ll be really disappointed.

    1. Wasn’t that supposed to come with U-Link? I seem to recall that being mentioned on this blog, but I can’t find the link right now..

    2. It’s part of the current phase of the Sound Transit Rider Technologies program – the first phase involved things like bringing One Bus Away in house. From what I’ve read earlier, the data connection between SCADA and the outside world was working, and being tested/verified/tweaked.

      Based on the old time scales given, 2015 is the rough launch date – but that could be completely wrong. Email to ST time!

  6. With center platforms, there is some flexibility to use one platform if the other is occupied. Sound Transit can easily operate one side for each line – as long as Northgate is the end station for both lines.

    A new challenge will emerge when the rail goes to Lynnwood. Half of the trains will end at Northgate, and the other half will use Northgate as a stop. Some rail systems build three tracks (two center platforms) at stations like Northgate to avoid the complication of having one active set of trains in the middle of the route work around end-of-line, out-of-service trains (either as they change direction or as there is the need for recovery or break time in the schedule). Sound Transit isn’t doing that here.

    Does anyone know how Sound Transit will reverse East Link trains when the Lynnwood Extension opens? Will there be a tail track just north of the station?

      1. A crossover will help a little, but it’s probably going to take a third track (pocket track) to be able to turn around a train. Otherwise, reversing trains will have to stop all moving trains in at least one direction. With only a crossover, it’s faster to reverse a train at the station platform – giving passengers a chance to board during the train reversal process.

    1. Sound Transit is building a pocket track just south of the Airport Station, I would imagine (and hope) that is what they are planning to do when they extend to Lynnwood.

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