One step closer to light rail
12:07 am March 7th, 2013
by Michael Sarko
- The Capitol Hill Times -
The University Link light rail line, which has been under construction for approximately 45 months, is hitting a major milestone. Work will begin on Capitol Hill Station mid-March, putting the line on schedule to open in 2016. At the same time, the Montlake neighborhood is ready to wave goodbye to the equipment and inconvenience associated with the excavation of the cross passage currently underway in the ground below the intersection of 20th Avenue and Mcgraw Street.
Cross Passage 17 will be one of 21 underground paths that will connect the two tunnels of the University Link line. At the start of the main excavation process, crews on opposite ends of the line launched tunnel boring machines to create the basic framework of the U-Link. The cross passages will do the delicate work of uniting the twin tunnels. CP 17 began excavation in July of 2012, but ran into delays as crews discovered a significant amount of unexpected ground water. For safety, and to ease construction, the site had to be drained in a process that took six months of machine-assisted pumping. Sound Transit expects the surface above CP 17 to be clear of equipment and traffic inconveniences soon, so that the landscaping at 20th and McGraw can be restored.
Much has been made already of the unusual system being used to pour concrete at Capitol Hill Station. Turner Construction, the project’s general contractor, is using what is known as a collapsible steel truss and PVC cooling system to create 40-foot sections of concrete that cool and harden, or “cure,” within five days. This is remarkably fast compared to more traditional methods. Even when left in an ideal atmosphere of cool temperatures and controlled moisture, standard concrete takes as long as four weeks to cure. The steel framing and PVC water piping system significantly speeds up this process.
The U-Link station in the University District has been under construction for some time already, and is a little less than 60 percent complete today. The underground station lets out close to Husky Stadium, and will have a pedestrian bridge over Montlake Boulevard toward the campus. Thanks, in large part, to community input, Sound Transit has also agreed to plant over 200 trees near the outlet and stadium as construction nears completion.
Community involvement in the development of the U-Link line, and the use of land around its two stations, has been a major part of the massive project’s evolution. In our own neighborhood, a group called Capitol Hill Champion has spearheaded the outreach process for several years now, and continues to advocate for certain uses of available plots around Capitol Hill Station. CHC’s most notable recommendations are the 50 percent on-site affordable housing development mandate, the use of the eventual plaza at the station for the Broadway Farmers Market, the insistence on local businesses for the available retail space, and a dedication to sustainable construction for all new buildings around the station.
As transit-focused community groups look to the future of rail beyond Capitol Hill, another group with a more region-wide perspective has begun to address the questions of access and equity in the Greater Puget Sound area. Growing Transit Communities is a part of the Puget Sound Regional Council, with a focus on growth management as it pertains to mass transit in the region for the next several decades. Funded with a federal HUD grant in Sustainable Communities Regional Planning, GTC is gathering data from the ongoing development of Capitol Hill Station to create a set of principles for future transit projects in Seattle and its neighbors.
For now, the shape of the structures and their functions at Capitol Hill Station are a matter of legislative process. With the initial outreach period finished and a framework in place, it now has to undergo the review of Seattle City Council and a number of other committees focused on the details of sustainability, funding, and land use. This process is expected to go on for the better part of 2013.