This week, crews started demolition work along the 9th Avenue wall that runs along the edge of Convention Place Station and its bus layover lot. The demolition work will be conducted primarily on weekends from now until October and is being done to prepare for the eventual turnover of Convention Place to the convention center for its $1.6 billion expansion approved last month.
Once the dust settles, the former retaining wall along 9th Avenue will be replaced with a temporary ramp that allows buses to access the transit tunnel without using the two existing entrances along Olive Way (which feed into the platforms at Convention Place). 9th Avenue will be reconfigured as a two-way transit street, with new stops to replace Convention Place Station. Northbound riders will see an average of 3 to 5 minutes of travel time added to every trip because of traffic signals and on-street congestion, especially affecing Route 255 in trying to reach Olive Way with a four-turn maneuver. The ramp will only be in use for a few months before convention center construction requires full use of the block, which is tentatively scheduled for March 2019.
The closure of the transit tunnel is not the only major disruption to transit service that will be caused by the convention center project. A series of truck loading ramps that will be built under Olive Way, requiring a cut-and-cover lid and a temporary shift for Olive Way, including an in-tact bus lane to help transit riders. Further work in the two triangular blocks, which includes a 29-story residential tower and a 16-story office tower, will mean lane closures on both Howell Street and Olive Way, which may close their peak-only bus lanes for weeks at a time.
When all is said and done, Convention Place will become the first part of our modern transit network to be abandoned, leaving behind a small stub ramp that will be seen from light rail trains for generations to come. Part of the backfilled tunnel will be replaced by a traction power substation for downtown’s trolleybuses, formerly located in the belly of Convention Place. The new convention center will open in 2021, with a subterranean exhibition hall that will be at around the same depth as Convention Place’s platforms.