When discussing East Link, Sound Transit’s approved light rail line between Seattle and Redmond, the Bellevue stations and rail alignments tend to take center stage. But as the calendar slowly crawls closer to the start of work on the line (scheduled to open in 2023, so far away it sounds like the setting of a science fiction novel), the design process for Seattle’s only new station on the line is getting underway.
With the working name of “North Rainier Station,” the station will be located in the center lanes of I-90 just south of Judkins Park. There will be entrances from Rainier Ave below and 23rd Ave to the east.
City Councilmember Richard Conlin wrote on his blog that the station will be the first station in the city that “is not in an urban village.” Surrounded by parks and freeway, the station site offers fewer transit-oriented development options than other stations.
But even without such opportunities directly near (or above) the station, it could bring dramatic changes to the Judkins Park and northern Rainier Valley neighborhoods. The station will provide extremely quick access to two of the region’s largest employment centers, an appeal likely to raise property values nearby.
CDNews will obviously keep you updated on the planning process as it moves forward. But here are some immediate questions: What do you think of the “North Rainier Station” name? What should it be named? What should be the neighborhood’s goals as the plan develops?
But riders will also have a chance to get on at a new station to be located in the I-90 right of way near Rainier Avenue. This station will be the first one to be sited in Seattle at a location that is not in an urban village, and will present unique challenges in designing access and in determining what kind of transit oriented development will be possible in the vicinity.
Recognizing that early planning is critical, the Council has approved Resolution 31386, calling for DPD to begin a station area planning process for the provisionally named ‘North Rainier Station’. Even the name can be confusing, as what is now the Mount Baker Station is located in the North Rainier Neighborhood Planning area. That area is close enough to the new station that interaction between the two station areas will be important to assess.
The City is committed to finding ways to ensure that development around light rail stations supports ridership and takes full advantage of the transit opportunities that light rail development will provide. It is important to begin this planning work early in order to limit incompatible development, review options for effective implementation of appropriate planning and zoning, and ensure that there is effective community engagement. A station associated with a light rail line in a freeway alignment will be challenging to integrate into the community.
For all of these reasons, now is the time to begin work on this station, even though light rail service will not be operational for almost ten years. The Council has asked that this begin with a plan for community outreach and station area planning around the planned North Rainier Station, to be provided to the Council by August. We want this plan to include specific timelines and planned staff commitments that will allow planning to be conducted in time to influence decisions by Sound Transit about the configuration and design for the station.
We are also asking that the plan include a timeline for adopting a station area overlay district for the North Rainier area and station area zoning that will limit the development of new auto-oriented uses in the vicinity of the proposed station.