Seattle's light rail station at NE 130th Street has been pushed back to 2026, but that might give SDOT more time to work on improving station access for people walking and biking. (Credit: Sound Transit)

Months after the Sound Transit board voted to accelerate the construction of Sound Transit’s NE 130th Street light rail station from 2031 to 2025, Sound Transit has announced that the earliest the infill station between Northgate and Shoreline South Stations will open is 2026. The delay was announced last week at Sound Transit’s system expansion committee meeting, where board members were told that the agency was now working toward a station opening in the second quarter of 2026, just short of two years after the currently scheduled start date for the rest of the Lynnwood Link extension.

The delay is not unexpected, with many major projects across the region still recovering from the monthslong work stoppage caused by the concrete worker’s strike. While disappointing, the added delay in opening what will be Seattle’s northernmost light rail station and its last new station until the 2030s could give the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) a greater head start on ensuring that 130th Station, which suffers from considerable station access issues, is more accessible to riders by the time it opens for service.

A view of the 130th Street light rail station from the south, with many people walking, biking or using wheelchairs to  access transit
NE 130th Street station will primarily serve people who are arriving by transit, walking, or biking, according to Sound Transit. (Credit: Sound Transit)

In early 2021, SDOT released a study on how station access could be improved for people accessing it from all directions, ranking the projects that would do the most to improve access. Now, the department is seeking a federal grant through the Puget Sound Regional Council to construct a slate of projects that it says would start construction in 2025, completing not far from the 2026 opening date for the station if all goes according to plan.

Of the 3,400 daily riders expected at NE 130th Street Station, Sound Transit expects just 10% to arrive by personal car in part because the station won’t have a parking garage, unlike the nearby Shoreline South Station at 148th Street. The remaining passengers are anticipated to be roughly split between bus transfers and direct walk or bike trips. Currently no buses serve the area where 130th Street station will be, and biking facilities in the area are not robust.

In the next few years, Metro will plan a restructure of the bus routes in the area, where at a minimum Route 75 will be rerouted to provide direct service between Lake City and the light rail station. Metro’s long range plan envisions frequent service along 130th and 125th connecting the light rail station with other north-south transit options on Lake City Way and Aurora Avenue N.

A map showing a dark blue line for transit on 130th, Roosevelt Way and 125th Street
Metro’s long range plan envisions frequent east west service along 130th/125th Street between Aurora and Lake City Way. (Credit: SDOT)

SDOT’s grant application envisions spending $14.5 million constructing improvements to improve transit stops between the station and the heart of Lake City, and improving nearby pedestrian and bicycle facilities. Here are the priorities that emerged the projects identified in SDOT’s 2021 study.

I-5 overpass improvements

A view of 130th Street Station from the i-5 overpass with the existing narrow sidewalk still shown
The I-5 overpass connecting users from the west to the station has substandard access for people walking and biking. SDOT would use grant funds to widen the sidewalk on the north side into a multiuse path. (Credit: SDOT)

The I-5 overpass at 130th Street, which every walker or roller accessing the station from west of I-5 will have to use, only has a narrow sidewalk. SDOT would narrow lane widths on the four lane overpass to provide room to expand the sidewalk along the north side of the bridge, creating a multiuse path that would then be extended west to 1st Avenue NE. There connections are envisioned to a neighborhood greenway or potential bike facilities on N 130th Street.

The north-side multiuse path concept is very similar to what is planned on the NE 145th Street overpass, only without the roundabouts. Could Seattle also build an I-5 overpass at 130th Street just for people walking and biking? It’s discussed as an option in the SDOT’s study, but it’s likely that the city would prioritize a new highway overpass elsewhere since the station is relatively close to the existing overpass.

A map showing the extent of the planned mixed use path between 1st Ave NE and 5th Ave NE on 130th Street
Improvements to the I-5 overpass at 130th Street were rated at the very top of priorities in SDOT’s 2021 study on station access improvements around the future light rail station. (Credit: SDOT)

Pedestrian improvements

Among the pedestrian improvements outlined in the grant request is a new signalized crossing at Roosevelt Way NE and NE 8th Street, where no crossing currently exists. This is envisioned as one element in a future neighborhood greenway on NE 8th Street. That greenway itself is outside the scope of this package of improvements, although.

An image of an offset intersection with no traffic controls. 8th Ave NE runs north south with Roosevelt Way NE running diagonally through it
SDOT’s grant would pay for a new signal at 8th Avenue NE across Roosevelt Way NE. (Credit: Google Maps)

Also planned are pedestrian crossing improvements along the entire Roosevelt Way NE and NE 125th Street corridor between the station and Lake City. So far, we don’t have a complete picture of what those might be yet, but we could expect curb extensions, additional marked crosswalks, and signal upgrades including leading pedestrian intervals. Those signal upgrades are also expected to come with transit service priority to keep buses moving more quickly through the east-west corridor.

Protected bike lanes?

NE 125th Street has bike lanes painted on either side of the street between 10th Avenue NE and 28th Avenue NE, but those lanes disappear where they’re needed most: through Lake City Way to the east and on Roosevelt Way NE, where there are no bicycle facilities at all. The 2021 access study identified this corridor as being a great candidate to upgrade to a protected bike lane all the way between the light rail station and Lake City Way. But it’s a bit early to say that’s what is being proposed.

A dashed line that turns into a turn lane in advance of an intersection on NE 125th Street
Paint bike lanes on NE 125th Street disappear when riders head either east or west toward the future light rail station or Lake City. (Credit: Google Maps)

One element in the grant proposal is to “[m]ake safety improvements to reduce bike and bus conflicts. This may include protected bike lanes and installing in-lane bus stops with through-lanes for bikes where existing bus stops and bike lanes are currently located along the corridor.” Filling in the missing gaps between the existing bike lanes isn’t explicitly laid out, and will be something to keep an eye on as the project develops.

A dark line indicating improvements between Lake City Way NE and the NE 130th Street light rail station
SDOT’s study on station access improvements envisions protected bike lanes between NE 130th Station and Lake City Way, but its recent grant proposal stops short of explicitly saying they’ll be planned with coming upgrades. (Credit: SDOT)

Additional delay in getting 130th Street station open is disappointing, of course, but it does give SDOT additional time to make transit, walking and biking connections to the station a lot easier, something that the City of Seattle has fallen short on many times in the past. Here’s hoping everything comes together and the department is able to make it happen.

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Ryan Packer lives in the Summit Slope neighborhood of Capitol Hill and has been writing for the The Urbanist since 2015. They report on multimodal transportation issues, #VisionZero, preservation, and local politics. They believe in using Seattle's history to help attain the vibrant, diverse city that we all wish to inhabit. Ryan's writing has appeared in Capitol Hill Seattle Blog, Bike Portland, and Seattle Bike Blog, where they also did a four-month stint as temporary editor.