Sound Transit has unveiled the first designs for its stations on the Lynnwood Link Extension, a 8.5-mile light rail project that will continue the current line north past Northgate to Shoreline, Mountlake Terrace and Lynnwood. While there were several open houses this week where comments were taken, the public can also use an online open house to look at the stations and submit comments until November 30.
The extension has four stations planned to open in 2023, and two provisional stations that will have accommodations to be built at a later date as infill stations. One of the provisional stations, at NE 130th Street, was included in ST3 and could open in 2031 (or earlier), while the other at 220th Street SW in Mountlake Terrace has not been approved.
In addition to feedback on the station designs, the public is also encouraged to submit station names using the online form or written comment.
The “flagship” of this extension, at the current Lynnwood Transit Center, is expected to serve nearly 18,000 riders by 2035. It will act as a funnel for most of the bus service in Snohomish County, with few buses expected to keep traveling south on Interstate 5 towards Seattle, even at rush hour. Community Transit, who had no presence at the open house, plans to run a Swift bus rapid transit line from Edmonds to the transit center in time for light rail to open, providing a powerful feeder to Link.
The station itself will be elevated approximately 48 feet above ground level on the southeast side of the current transit center. The platform features “full weather protection” in the form a continuous roof and covered connections to the mezzanine level. The mezzanine has three exits: one to the adjacent parking garage; another to a “station plaza” that is an open space cut in half by a parking ramp; and an entrance on the west side of 46th Avenue (the I-5 access ramp) that leads to the existing bus bays, which will be retained and expanded with additional layover space. The main pedestrian access to the station will be from a “gateway intersection” to the northeast at 44th Avenue and 200th Street, towards where Lynnwood’s planned city center will be located.
Parking will be quite plentiful at the station, both during and after construction. I was told at an open house that Sound Transit intends to maintain parking through construction, though details have not been decided on yet. In addition to more than 1,500 stalls for cars, Sound Transit plans to add a substantial amount of bicycle parking in lockers and cages.
Construction at Lynnwood Transit Center will require the acquisition and demolition of several nearby buildings, including a large furniture store. The station won’t use the entire parcel that these buildings sit on, leaving space for future transit-oriented development. Sound Transit is expecting to see retail flock to these developments, and has not made accommodations for ground-level retail at the station or in the garage, similar to the unleased space at Angle Lake Station (where the city of SeaTac’s ordinance required it).
Mountlake Terrace Station
The only other station north of the county line, in Mountlake Terrace, will re-use the existing parking garage and surface parking lot at the current Mountlake Terrace Transit Center. The station will move bus stops out of the current bus loop and onto nearby streets, encouraging better through-trips, while also providing plenty of layover space along the perimeter. The current median freeway station, opened in 2011, will see very little traffic after 2023, with its Seattle- and Lynnwood-bound buses replaced by light rail.
Like Lynnwood, the city of Mountlake Terrace is bracing for transit-oriented development and has a catchy name for its project. The “Gateway” will develop a large site along Interstate 5 to the south of the station, and will be helped by a station entrance on the south side of 236th Street SW, as well as a new road that will link up with the new parking garage access road at the station.
NE 185th Street Station
The northernmost of the two Shoreline stations, NE 185th Street will probably have better development prospects thanks to its location at a non-interchange. Uniquely, it will feature a retained cut trench where the platform will sit, as the tracks pass under the nearby NE 185th Street overpass; passengers waiting on the platform should be well protected from the wind, unlike at the other, elevated stations, which lack wind screens similar to those in use at SeaTac/Airport Station. Immediately outside both entrances to the station will be a bus loop with several bus bays, where Community Transit plans to extend the existing Swift Blue Line from Aurora Village and where Metro plans to run frequent service to Shoreline Community College, Richmond Beach and Kenmore. The station’s garage is located on the west side of Interstate 5, and an improved overpass is planned to help funnel commuters back into their cars.
NE 145th Street Station
NE 145th Street Station, arguably the most controversial on the project, will be a lynchpin to the transit network of the entire north end of King County. The station, which was quietly shifted three blocks north to NE 148th Street last year, will feature a large bus loop and large parking garage, with all the associated ramps and access roads needed to support the two. With the now-approved SR 522 BRT line planned to terminate at the station, along with several frequent routes planned by Metro in their long-range plan, there is pressure mounting to fix N(E) 145th Street for transit as well as pedestrians and cyclists. The city of Shoreline plans to upzone the area for denser housing, but the majority of riders will likely be transfers from buses that will take a long and slow loop through the maze-like transit center.
While the Lynnwood Link alignment could have been on a much better corridor, and while the stations themselves could’ve been moved to better cross-streets (like 155th), I think that Sound Transit did a fine job with the cards they were dealt. The stations take into account many common complaints that transit riders had after the first generation of Link stations were built, including center platforms and pairs of up and down escalators. The bus-rail transfers at these stations will be painless and pleasant compared to Mount Baker Station or UW Station, though at the cost of through-riders and developable space. Great job, Sound Transit staffers and architects, and I hope to see even better concepts at the 60 percent design meeting in a few months’ time.