This image depicts the University District Station’s proposed architectural design. Image courtesy of Sound Transit
This image depicts the University District Station’s proposed architectural design. Image courtesy of Sound Transit

Dozens of community members gathered at the Neptune Theatre (1303 N.E. 45th St.) on Jan. 14 to discuss the future of the University District light rail station, which is projected to transport 12,000 daily riders by 2030.

Architects, artists and Sound Transit staff took center stage to present the station’s key architectural and sustainability features, ranging from bike lanes, racks and lockers to permanent public art and surrounding greenery. Based on public feedback, Sound Transit will make final touches on the nearly completed design before construction begins in late 2017.

“Public feedback is essential to this project,” said Sound Transit public information officer Kimberly Reason. “There are a lot of different elements of capital construction that require public input. Each step of the way, we’re going to the community and saying, ‘OK, here’s where we’re at right now. What do you think about the design and what are your concerns?’”

An ‘underground’ reality

Set to open in 2021, the U-District Station is part of the Northgate Link extension voters approved back in 2008. A 4.3-mile underground Link extension will run from the University of Washington (UW) Station to Husky Stadium, connecting the U-District, Roosevelt and Northgate. Federal grants and local taxes will partially fund the estimated $2.1 billion project.

The U-District Station will consist of two entrances along Brooklyn Avenue Northeast, a single landing platform for transit riders to board both north and southbound trains and screens displaying train arrival times.

A large piece of artwork, commissioned from Lead Pencil Studio, will be placed on the west wall of the station. The artwork features architectural elements found in the U-District neighborhood, including fire escapes and a pair of apartment-style windows mounted to the station wall. The windows will feature large screens with shifting images of important historical events taking place at UW like the 1909 world’s fair. Images will also depict scenes reflecting domestic life in apartment windows.

“We plan to bring a piece of the city to an underground reality,” said Daniel Mihalyo, studio artist at Lead Pencil.

“It will be sort of a surprising world,” added Sound Transit art program manager Barbara Luecke.

Street-level amenities?

UW is still deciding what to build above the station at street level, according to Aaron Hoard, deputy director of UW’s Regional and Community Relations. Ongoing conversations about UW building a 240-foot office tower have sparked community dialogue. Certain community members hope to develop a public plaza for farmers markets, street fairs, outdoor cafes or additional housing, according to a Seattle Times story. However, UW owns the air rights above the station, giving the final say to the university over what is built.

Currently, there is no set date for when construction will begin.

Outside the station, a 12-foot-wide “green” sidewalk will be constructed, decked with native plants and trees. A seating area will be installed in front of the station’s entrance to welcome transit riders and U-District residents.

A bike path will be built, providing easy access to the station’s 100 bike stalls. However, traffic remains a concern south of the U-District. For this reason, the bike path will only head northbound from the neighborhood.

“I think there was an excellent explanation as to why the bike lanes are only heading northbound and why there is a shared bike and car lane heading south,” said Emilio Garza, UW alumnus and one of the open house attendees. “It’s really to make sure the flow of traffic continues smoothly and we don’t have a jam of extra cars. Whether it’s giving way to more bikes, pedestrians or Metro access, they’re (Sound Transit) really trying to take more cars off the road.”

Project priorities

By 2030, Sound Transit estimates that the Northgate Link extension will add 62,000 daily riders to the Link system, with 12,000 daily riders coming from the U-District station alone.

“Congestion has astronomically increased as population growth in this area continues to explode, and we simply haven’t kept pace as a region,” Sound Transit’s Reason said. “Our priority is to get cars off the road [and] more people on trains and make mobility around the region much faster and more convenient.”

The U-District light rail plans to do just that. People traveling from the station will arrive to the Northgate Mall in just five minutes, downtown in eight minutes and Sea-Tac International Airport in 42 minutes.

And with the Puget Sound region expected to grow by 1 million people by 2040, according to Sound Transit, the agency is making sure it plans for the population influx and tries to get cars on the road.

“With the U-District Station being a part of the Northgate Link extension, another major employment area, this will only further enable us to get more cars off the road,” Reason said. “It’s a very exciting outlook.”

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