UW Station is starting to actually look like a light rail station. Much of the train platform, mezzanine level and escalator ramps are in place, so Sound Transit held a press conference yesterday to show off what’s been happening far below the surface of Montlake Blvd.
The University Link light rail line is now 60% complete, ahead of schedule and $100 million under its $1.9 billion budget, said Sound Transit board member Larry Phillips. Things are looking good for an on-time opening in the fall of 2016.
Things are also looking good inside the job site. The twin tunnels and station platform are lined with train beds and contractors expect steel rails to start arriving at the Capitol Hill site next month. Installation begins in March, with tracks arriving at UW in July.
One of the major challenges with the station’s design is its depth — 90 feet below the surface — needed for travel under the Montlake Cut. The journey to track level will take three escalator rides, four if arriving over the pedestrian bridge from campus. Elevators will speed things up a bit.
Of course there’s lots of tedious work happening too, like waterproofing walls. The station was built ‘top-down’ — meaning side walls were built as the pit was excavated. Since the platform is below the water table, the side walls hold back groundwater in addition to nine stories of geology. Crews are putting up plastic liners to block any moisture that might seep through.
On the downstream side of the station is the cross-over and maintenance area for trains terminating at UW. This area will eventually be capped, back-filled and mostly hidden from view. The bored tunnels begin here — Westlake Station is 3 miles away — six minutes at light rail speed.
Parting shot — crews started pouring concrete for the pedestrian bridge span over Montlake Blvd this week. Once-a-week pours will continue through the winter. The bridge will likely be finished long before 2016, but it won’t be usable until the university completes its end of the deal, a complete redesign of the Montlake Triangle. That project has yet to begin.