East Link: Rainier Station Open House

Rainier Station
The site of the future station, in the middle of I-90 and accessed from 23rd (right) and Rainier (left, a little after where all the signs are).


On Thursday, Sound Transit held an open house about the Rainier Station, a station planned as part of the East Link extension. The station is planned as a center platform station wedged in the median of I-90 between Rainier Ave S. and 23rd Ave S. The station will serve riders in the Central District and Rainier Valley.

Trains will operate to the Eastside and Downtown Seattle with service continuing northward. Those looking for service southbound are better served by bus or changing trains westward at International District Station, although this may be somewhat circuitous to simply heading south to the Mount Baker Transit Center/Mount Baker station.

The station will be a significant improvement over today’s bus-only Rainier Freeway Station. An entrance is added at 23rd Ave S making world-class transit accessible to many more people with elevators and a new access point. The experience for riders will also improve. Currently, riders wait in the middle of a very noisy 10-lane freeway. The new station will have the most efficient sound walls ever conceived.

Vegetation opposite of the tracks and center platform will give a garden-like feel to the station, a cue taken from the extensively-landscaped Mount Baker freeway lid and Mountains-to-Sound trail. Meanwhile, entrances to the station will be very light. The station structures will consist mainly of glass and steel, which provide for excellent vistas of Mount Rainier or Downtown Seattle. There will also be plenty of weather protection.

Light rail riders will have many options for accessing the station. Bike cages will be provided on-site for cyclists. These can be paid for by simply using a preloaded ORCA pass and will be located at both station entrances. Cyclists will have plenty of safe routes thanks to the City of Seattle’s Central Area Greenway projects and similar projects in the south end, in addition to the existing I-90 trail.

King County Metro Transit will continue to provide frequent bus service along 23 Ave S. (Route 48)  and Rainier Ave S. (Routes 7 and 9). Other bus services within the walkshed include Routes 4 and 8. Presumably the arrangement of service will be revised by the time of the station opening, but the point stands that the station will be well served. The good news for riders here is that most of those buses are at high frequencies, so there will be little time penalty when transferring to and from light rail.

Unlike the much more car-oriented Eastside, the station has no need of a Park-and-Ride facility. Although there is the legitimate concern by residents that light rail will bring Hide-and-Ride to the neighborhoods in proximity to the station. Action by the city may be warranted to allay these concerns and actively discourage such rider behavior. One way to achieve this for instance is a Restricted Parking Zone.

There were concerns about the at-grade crossing for riders entering and exiting from Rainier Ave S. The entrance from this end is focused to the northwest of the center platform, which means that riders must cross over tracks to reach the center platform. Meanwhile, plazas at both ends of the station will be able to handle food carts. The spaces are designed so that they might be expanded in the future to accommodate food trucks or even permanent stores. Discussion on these potential facilities were both positive and negative.

Lastly, there was a significant revision for D2 roadway–a roadway located just west of the future station area. This roadway currently serves as the express lanes segment running from Rainier Ave S. to International District Station. The right-of-way was initially slated for use by light rail and an eastbound bus lane. The bus lane was planned as an 11′ wide lane; however, it was ultimately dropped from the project in this iteration. The roadway is now planned for exclusive light rail use, leaving a surplus and unused bridge over Rainier Ave S. and the eastbound flyer stop. It’s unfortunate that Sound Transit plans to keep the unused roadway–unlike its westbound counterpart that will be demolished. Though the East Link project has no budget to demolish the bridge, it should be taken down in the future to allow for more light rail to reach Rainier.

Also, in case you missed the video put out by Sound Transit last week, we’ve got you covered. Take a ride from the International District to Mercer Island and see the future light rail stations along the alignment, including Rainier Station.

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Guy is a high school student in Bellevue with a strong desire to become an urban planner. Before moving to Bellevue, he grew up in the Paris metropolitan area where he fell in love with and learned from some of the best rail systems in Europe. Translating his experiences from abroad to Seattle, Guy is now passionate about improving this region's public transit (especially marine-based transportation) and cycling infrastructure. Aside from the technical side of things, Guy also enjoys photography and music.

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Joshua Putnam

Looking at the existing and future connections to the I-90 Trail and planned Neighborhood Greenways, the station has at most token bicycle parking. How many commuters live within even a 1-mile bikeshed of the station? (1 mile, that’s 5 minutes for a couch potato on an upright cruiser bike.) This really seems like a location for an urban-scale bike parking facility, not potential expansion to 30 bikes some time in the future.