Puget Sound’s North End communities are refining their vision for the Lynnwood Link extension through a series of open houses over the next month. Sound Transit has been forced to do some significant value engineering to keep the project budget within scope after some unexpected project costs (e.g., rising construction, labor, and land acquisition costs) cropped up last year. The refinements pare the budget back down about $200 million, but it is still $300 million above earlier estimates on what is now a $2.77 billion budget.
For riders, changes in amenities are a mixed bag. At NE 185th St station, the parking garage will be co-located with the station instead of across the highway while riders at Mountlake Terrace station will be faced with no escalators. Instead, they’ll get barely code compliant stairs and additional parking–at least temporarily. Sound Transit is also planning to use less expensive girders for elevated guideway, which are functionally sound but less aesthetically pleasing.
The design for the NE 145th St station in Shoreline remains fairly similar to the 60% design shared last summer. The plan is more detailed, however, and Sound Transit has promised to construct a trail directly under the elevated guideway. The trail will follow the path of the guideway viaduct for about a block north of the station site to the cul-de-sac at NE 152nd St. Buster Simpson, the artist of the station, has provided more details on his water concept, which will draw from sustainable stormwater practices and wetlands.
As a major cost-saving measure, Sound Transit is making big changes to the NE 185th St station. New plans move the parking garage location to the east side of I-5. This will consolidate it with the station site. New renderings show that it will be fairly bulky. By eliminating the parking garage location on the west side of I-5, Sound Transit will no longer make improvements across the NE 185th St overpass (a wide covered pedestrian path), to the site that would have used for the parking garage, and nearby streets to the parking garage. This change will make the station site more efficient with the bus loop and layover area located largely in the same footprint as before, except it will be inside the parking garage.
Access for buses and general vehicles to the parking garage will be separate with buses entering from NE 185th St and other vehicles from 8th Ave NE. Meanwhile, the footprint of the station is essentially the same, except that a pedestrian bridge to the station will be added. The open space and landscaping at the southeast corner is arguably a huge improvement from the design shared last year.
Mary Lucking, the artist assigned to the station, is still sticking with a plant theme, largely reflecting the forest understory. Sound Transit has released some very leafy sketches from Lucking, which indicate metallic sculptures and murals in and around the station.
South of Shoreline, Sound Transit has promised to construct a new multi-use trail to link 1st Ave NE with NE 115th St. The trail will wind its way under an elevated portion of the guideway. Right now there is not a connection at this location, but it could help retain pedestrian and bicycle circulation in the area since an at-grade section of rail will sever an existing pedestrian and bicycle connection at NE 116th St, a block north.
New since Sound Transit’s design update last year is a formal plan for temporary parking near the Mountlake Terrace Transit Center. The parking will be installed prior to station construction, which is supposed to augment disruptions to existing transit center park-and-riders. Mountlake Terrace extracted this out as a concession from Sound Transit in exchange for a transitway agreement last year. Sound Transit has also worked on a revised station plan that will incorporate a well-designed plaza at the southwest corner of 236th St SW and Gateway Blvd.
However, some aspects of the station will be value-engineered away. For instance, the station won’t feature escalators, only stairs that meet bare minimum safety code requirements. The station will also have less overall transparency (window panels) and cheaper exterior building materials.
New details have emerged on Kipp Kobayashi’s art installations. Kobayashi is proposing to wrap artwork around the exterior walls and ceiling vaults of the elevated guideway and supports at the station. Using perforated metals, the design will evoke a living forest theme and sense of connectivity.
Sound Transit has tidied up the station plan for the Lynnwood station. The footprint of the station itself is nearly the same from earlier versions, but the overall site plan and parking facilities have gotten some tweaks. The parking garage will consume a larger footprint on the site and will be shifted a little further southwest to 46th Ave W. Parking stall widths will get a slight trim down from 9 feet to 8.5 feet, saving Sound Transit a significant chunk of money. The larger parking garage partly augments changes to the transit center bus area. Instead of locating bus layover space north of the bus loop, layover spaces will be located toward the southwest of the site boundaries where a surface parking lot had been planned. A portion of the area will still serve that purpose, but much less so.
Meanwhile, the station plaza and pedestrian promenade concepts have come more into view featuring circular spaces and curves framed by strategic landscaping, furniture, and materials. Several plaza locations will feature open sculptures. Overall the pedestrian spaces should feel fairly connected and legible between the bus loop, station, parking facilities, trails, and gateway to the northeast. A more direct multi-use trail is also planned beneath the guideway to connect to the Scriber Creek Trail and extension to the Interurban Trail. The existing trail connection will be upgraded by Sound Transit.
Claudia Fitch has been commissioned as the station artist for Lynnwood and has focused in on a hummingbird theme. She plans to use a large neon hummingbird sculpture as a centerpiece. The hummingbird will have a head reaching 30 feet into the sky. Her idea for neon stems from the history of neon signage that used to be prominent on SR-99. Fitch’s existing piece at the transit center, “Shift,” will be relocated to the southern portion of the station site. Other artwork of hers will draw from a photo wildlife and plants motifs, invariably using bold color.
Upcoming Open Houses
There’s still two drop-in opportunities to learn about the changes and comment on the updated designs. Sound Transit will have an open house in Shoreline tonight (June 27th) at Shorewood High School from 6pm to 8pm. Another open house will following in late July for Lynnwood. The open house will be at the Lynnwood Convention Center on July 25th from 6pm to 8pm.
Stephen is a professional urban planner in Puget Sound with a passion for sustainable, livable, and diverse cities. He is especially interested in how policies, regulations, and programs can promote positive outcomes for communities. With stints in great cities like Bellingham and Cork, Stephen currently lives in Seattle. He primarily covers land use and transportation issues and has been with The Urbanist since 2014.