Sound Transit has released a list of design changes for Lynnwood Link, requested by WSDOT and local governments following the 2015 EIS, with some major changes for stations at NE 185th Street and Lynnwood Transit Center, along with other minor tweaks. The changes, which are separate from Sound Transit’s quest to fill the $500 million budget shortfall that the project faces, should bring modest improvements to vehicular access at both stations, while scraping away at the property acquisition costs that have dogged the project over the last few months.
The original design for Shoreline North/NE 185th Street station placed the five-story, 500-space parking garage on the west side of I-5, opposite the station, and funded an improved overpass with wider sidewalks and better fencing. The refined design now places it on the east side, under the planned bus bays adjacent to the station’s two entrances. Vehicles would enter and exit the garage from 8th Avenue NE, away from bus traffic at the improved 5th Avenue intersection; the site itself is sloped, lending itself well to a partially-buried garage, but some excavation would be required to fit all 500 parking spaces in there (though we’d prefer they didn’t). The new design wouldn’t dramatically impact bus operations or traffic around the station, but would save Sound Transit from acquiring the Shoreline Stadium parking lot from the Shoreline School District.
The changes for Lynnwood City Center station are far more dramatic, with a complete re imagining of the parking garage and the east side of the station, now occupied by the fenced-off and soon-to-be demolished Black Angus restaurant and a gas station. The garage, previously in the shape of a bent rectangle, has now been squashed into a pair of offset rectangles to make way for a daylighted creek running along the west edge of 44th Avenue West. The garage would lose its direct access ramp to 46th Avenue for carpools and instead have a ramp that leads to the southbound lanes of 44th Avenue West, across the now daylighted creek. On the west side of the station, the surface parking lot would be split by a new bus layover area with 20 spaces, able to support the expected post-restructure load of 182 peak-hour buses that will serve the transit center. The shrunken parking lot would also eliminate a few kiss-and-ride spaces, which would be moved to a new street (202nd Street) on the north side of the current “A” bus bays. The reconfigured parking areas would be encircled by a system of relocated bicycle and pedestrian paths connecting to the Scriber Creek Trail and Interurban Trail.
Lynnwood’s new design would not save on land acquisition or construction costs, but it would reduce the footprint of the parking garage and improve vehicular circulation around the transit center. The daylighting of the unnamed creek along 44th Avenue would also bring minor ecological benefits, mainly the opportunity to introduce new streamside plantings and add a buffer between the station and 44th Avenue. The design changes would not affect some of the developable parcels on the north side of the tracks, facing 200th Street, or the station’s layout (including the all-important overcrossing to the bus bays).
Along with the major changes at these two stations, Sound Transit is also shifting the alignment of light rail tracks near Northgate and Mountlake Terrace. The Northgate realignment, approximately where the northbound offramp meets 1st Avenue NE, would switch from straddle bents that cross over 1st to narrow columns that require less space and concrete. The Mountlake Terrace switch would smooth out the crossing of Interstate 5 by moving it further north of the current freeway bus station, also reducing the number of columns hat would need to be installed in the freeway’s right-of-way (and thus saving on disruptive construction).
These design changes are likely to be the last layer of polish that Sound Transit will place on the project before it heads off to the Federal Transit Administration for a full grant funding agreement (FFGA), anticipated to happen around summer of this year. They seem to be reasonable concessions that won’t have a detrimental long-term impact on the design of the line, but I do question where else Sound Transit can safely cut corners to fill the budget shortfall. At last check, Sound Transit was considering a slew of design refinements aimed at saving costs, including reduced platform widths, removal of some escalators, and ditching some noise reduction equipment (including sound walls and floating slabs). It’s unsure whether these changes will make it into yet another design document before the FFGA or if they will come to roost during engineering review or 90 percent design later this year (or perhaps next year).