UW News

January 14, 2010

Process begins for big changes in Triangle Garage area

A Request for Proposal goes out this week to four firms that were short-listed for work on the Triangle Garage area.

The work will include rough grading of the lower Rainier Vista and Montlake Triangle, lowering Pacific Place (the street connecting Montlake Boulevard with Pacific Street) and creating a land bridge over it to link with Rainier Vista.

The work is essentially the southernmost portion of the Rainier Vista Plan created two years ago (see our earlier article here) with the exception of a skybridge from the Sound Transit station (under construction) over Montlake Boulevard.

Sound Transit had proposed building a 600-foot skybridge that would go from its station across both Montlake and Pacific Place and ending near Wilson Annex. In the Rainier Vista plan, the University had countered with a proposal for a much shorter skybridge that would go from the station to the triangle area, connecting with paths there.

But according to University Landscape Architect Kristine Kenney, the Seattle Department of Transportation prefers at-grade crossings rather than skybridges, so a study was conducted last summer to look at the feasibility of lowering Pacific Place, providing the land bridge over, and then creating an at-grade, mid-block Montlake crossing in front of the station. That study showed that the plan was feasible with financial contributions from Sound Transit, SDOT and the University.

A Request for Qualifications went out in December, to which eight companies responded. Four were chosen to receive the Request for Proposal. Kenney said those proposals are due at the end of March. The chosen firm will be notified in April so that they can begin planning. But actual work on the project won’t start until the spring of 2011.

The plan means that pedestrians coming out of the Sound Transit Station (which won’t open until 2016) will be able to cross Montlake via a new crosswalk that will take them to the triangle area. From there they could proceed over Pacific Place to Rainier Vista. The two existing crosswalks at the intersection of Montlake and Pacific will remain as they are.

“When people come out of the station, that [the site of the new crosswalk] is their immediate crossing, and you know people will take the shortest route, so why not plan for it and put it in?” Kenney said. She said Sound Transit anticipates up to 400 people getting off the train at one time during peak periods.

A thorough traffic analysis that was part of the feasibility study determined that, assuming the traffic signals are properly timed, an additional crosswalk will not have an adverse impact on traffic, Kenney said.

The University did not favor Sound Transit’s original skybridge plan, partly because it would have been inconvenient for Sound Transit riders who wanted to go to the medical center and partly because it was too long.

“The Sound Transit-proposed bridge is more than 600 feet long, so there were serious concerns about security,” Kenney said. “If you were on the bridge at night alone, your closest exit could be up to 300 feet away, which is a pretty good distance.”

The new plan will include a bypass path for the Burke Gilman Trail that will follow Pacific Place under the land bridge, thus separating pedestrians wanting to enter the campus from bicyclists wanting to bypass campus. However, there will also be a path off the trail for those heading up Rainier Vista.

The “finish work” of redoing the landscape on the triangle and the lower vista is not part of this project. It will be bid as a separate project and constructed immediately following this work. Kenney said that almost everything currently on the triangle will be removed. She said many of the Leyland cypress trees there were lost in a windstorm in 2006 and the others have the same disease and are in need of replacement.

“The finished landscape will provide a better connection to the campus, both functionally and aesthetically,” she said. “Not only will the views both up and down the vista be improved, but the entire pedestrian experience will be enhanced to provide a more appropriate gateway to the University.”