Upon Sound Transit’s announcement late last week that light rail service will begin nine months ahead of schedule in January 2016, agency officials offered a sneak peak of construction progress, now 80% complete. What does 80% look like? A lot less dramatic than the bare station shell seen earlier this year, but also, a lot more like a light rail station.
The station house in front of Husky Stadium is now clearly visible above the construction fence that has blocked views into the cavernous pit below Montlake Blvd since excavation began in January 2010. UW Station is huge: big enough for overflow event crowds and a crossover track to reverse trains — and deep enough for its rail tunnels to pass under the Montlake Cut. The 3-mile trip from Downtown to Capitol Hill to Montlake will take just six minutes via light rail, which will eventually bring 25,000 riders per day through UW Station — and a hopefully bit of traffic relief on neighborhood streets.
The press event included remarks from Senator Patty Murray, King County Executive Dow Constantine, and Sound Transit CEO Joni Earl. Upon the 50th anniversary of JFK’s death, Murray spoke of an era of “building something more than ourselves,” as we are doing with regional light rail today.
Work is progressing on the interior with floors and ceilings starting to take shape. Wall tiles on the mezzanine level reveal a blue, black and chartreuse color scheme, apparently recalling UW Station’s favorite football team, the Seahawks. Riders will reach the train platform from the new Montlake Blvd pedestrian bridge via four escalators or a 9-story elevator ride.
Escalators between mid-station mezzanines will journey through artist Leo Saul Berk’s “geologic” layers. “By orienting them in their subterranean environment and describing their surroundings, the chamber will remind the viewer of where they are and what is just on the other side of this station’s massive concrete walls.” The art installation served as the backdrop for Friday’s presser, though its walls were only illuminated with temporary construction lights. Eventually permanent lights will put on a show.
Down on the platform level, track work is well under way. CEO Joni Earl said track installation is complete between Westlake and Capitol Hill Stations and crews are currently making progress laying tracks in the twin tunnels below the Hill and Montlake. Platform tracks are already installed at UW Station and will fully connect with the tunnels in early 2014.
Light rail wonks and “concerned citizens” living above the tunnels will notice the oval shaped rubber pads that tie the steel rails to the concrete train bed. The pads, called high-compliance fasteners, were purchased in 2012 after Sound Transit heard complaints about vibrations from the contractor’s supply trains during tunnel mining. There were no such complaints during Beacon Hill tunneling a decade ago, thus the special fasteners weren’t used there. When the line continues from UW Station during upcoming North Link construction, a special rubber base beneath the concrete rail bed will isolate the track from the tunnel walls and further dampen vibrations under the UW campus.
Once major construction is complete, systems installation can begin to bring power to the rail line, followed by several months of service testing. T-minus twenty-five months!