On a quiet Tuesday night last month, Sound Transit held its final design open house for Judkins Park Station, located at the site of the Rainier Freeway Station on Interstate 90. The open house, hosted at the Northwest African American Museum in the Central District, was attended by a few dozen members of the community and regional advocates for transit, cycling and walking.
At the meeting, Sound Transit staff, architect David Hewitt, and artist Barbara Earl Thomas presented elements of the station’s designs, divided into three sections (the west entrances on Rainier Avenue, the platform itself, and the east entrance on 23rd Avenue). With an emphasis on pedestrian, bike and bus access to both entrances, which build upon existing bike trails and bus routes that converge on I-90, Judkins Park will become an important transfer point between modes, especially to access the Central District.
One of the most notable and visible features of the station —and surrounding area— is the incorporation of Jimi Hendrix imagery in the art and nearby parks. The entrances will feature two archival photos of a young Hendrix, who was raised nearly a mile north of the station, rendered in a dot-matrix pattern by artist Hank Willis Thomas; the design will be harder to distinguish from close up, but come in focus from further distances.
The station itself will stretch over 1,300 feet from end to end, with station utilities and auxiliary rooms located mid-way between the Rainier entrance and platform. From Rainier Avenue, riders can use one of two entrances on each side of the street, with the west side connected by a pedestrian bridge over the street attached to the westbound lanes of I-90, and converge into a common ticketing area. Once in the station, riders will walk under a sheltered walkway attached to a maintenance building and cross over the westbound track in order to reach the platform in the middle of the tracks. Sound Transit officials told me at the open house that a configuration with the station entrance between the two tracks would have not brought enough daylight onto Rainier Avenue and require more new ramps to be constructed at additional cost and risk.
From the east end on 23rd Avenue, station access is much simpler. A single entrance, located next to a bulbed-out pedestrian signal and two bus stops, and a series of stairs, escalators and elevators descending straight onto the platform. Both sides of the station will also feature a wide variety of trees and shrubs meant to mask the concrete sound walls that shield the station from Interstate 90.
Overall, the Judkins Park Station is much more interesting than it would appear at first glance. It will bridge the gap between Rainier and 23rd avenues, both in distance and elevation, and serve as an important transfer point for bus routes 7 and 48, as well as for cyclists coming off the Mountains-to-Sound Trail. With the amount of thought, work, and sensible compromise put into the station by Sound Transit and Hewitt Architects, I can foresee few design decisions that we will come to regret after opening day.
The new station will open in 2023 as part of East Link and replace the current Rainier bus station, as well as the express lanes of Interstate 90. To accommodate this, the bus station will be closed next summer alongside the HOV lanes on Interstate 90; construction on the station will begin in 2018 and service will begin in 2023. Sound Transit has also posted the slides from the presentation on their website, which has a full set of renderings and other notes.