This is the second of three posts in our series about the latest designs for the West Seattle and Ballard Link extensions. This post covers Uptown and South Lake Union.
Last Wednesday, September 5th, Sound Transit released its latest concept work on the West Seattle and Ballard light rail extensions. We’re examining each segment in-depth, from north to south, station by station.
More detailed information, including Sound Transit’s score of each station site and track segment, can be found here. Sound Transit’s new outreach website has visualizations and other information. Read Part One here.
Since the Level 1 alternatives, there have been a few changes. The all-Mercer St. alignment, the 8th Avenue First Hill Stop, and the idea of having only one stop in South Lake Union have disappeared.
Uptown (Seattle Center)
The underground Uptown station will sit in a neighborhood dense with jobs, residents, and events ridership. The station will lie on an east-west, tunneled track segment roughly on the axis of 1st Avenue N. The question is whether the station will be built on Harrison, Republican, Mercer, or Roy.
Sound Transit identified four factors in the ultimate decision: tunnel and portal alignment, service for Key Arena & Seattle Center, bus integration, and TOD potential.
Roy scores the lowest by those metrics. Bus integration and Seattle Center service would be poor, though there is more upzoning potential near the station site.
Harrison scores well on those factors, but has a significant engineering challenge: it would have to tunnel directly under the soon to be renovated Key Arena, which has a deep, excavated bowl, and deeper foundations.
The ultimate location will take those concerns into account, but engineering will likely be a bigger factor. The Ballard alignment will dictate the location of the west portal of the tunnel, as will the station to the east.
South Lake Union
The location of South Lake Union stations will carry equal weight: that neighborhood is also dense in jobs and housing, and growing fast.
SLU will have two stations. One will be near the intersection of Denny and Westlake, and the other—which has a wider variance of sites—will be to the west, near SR 99 and Dexter Avenue.
The western station, which Sound Transit calls South Lake Union, could be located on:
- Republican Street, straddling Dexter with entrances on the east side of Aurora Avenue N
- Roy Street, straddling Aurora Avenue N with entrances on either side of the highway
- Harrison Street, at the north portal of the SR 99 tunnel, with entrances on either side of the highway
ST seems to prefer either Roy or Harrison; Republican doesn’t serve both sides of the highway, and will be hard to integrate with SR 99 bus service.
Harrison would provide the best integration with bus service, and be close to the Gates Foundation campus. Roy would best serve the dense neighborhood on the east slope of Queen Anne centered around Dexter.
The Denny station will serve the Amazon campus and Denny Triangle. It will be placed either on
Denny Way itself, Westlake Avenue N (North or South of Denny Way), Boren Ave N, or Terry Avenue N. A Boren Avenue location to the east was under consideration earlier this year, but was eliminated. [The Boren Ave location has not been eliminated – ed.]
The walkshed of the Terry and
Denny Westlake stations is nearly identical. The main difference is the relation of the stations to the slope of Denny Hill, and their potential for transit integration. The Denny Westlake site could have entrances higher up the slope, but the construction would disrupt streetcar operations and choke the already-congested Denny Way. Terry would avoid those problems, but would make for a more difficult bus transfer environment, and would require a hillclimb or escalators to serve Denny Hill.
From Denny, the line will intersect with the current Westlake station, the first transfer hub on the line.
The new downtown stations are controversial. We’ve covered the siting of the Midtown/First Hill station here; the most likely alignments are on 5th or 6th Avenue.
We covered the Chinatown/International District site in depth here. A battle is brewing between community groups, who want the station to be built on 4th Avenue, and Sound Transit, which seems to prefer 5th.
Most likely, this station will be the southernmost transfer site between West Seattle-Ballard trains and the rest of the system. The right of way that serves the station will be dictated by the location of the Chinatown/International District station, which we covered here.
There is a small chance that the station could be sited on Occidental Avenue, to the west of the current alignment. However, the line would have to fly over the port and industrial areas, and the right of way would disrupt freight mobility on Occidental. Sound Transit seems to prefer an alignment on or near the E3 Busway.
Next, we’ll look at the West Seattle segment.
Updated 12:16pm for clarity – Ed.