March 2, 2011

A glimpse of 2016: New plan for Montlake Triangle features better access

News and Information

By the time the Sound Transit station near Husky Stadium opens in 2016, there will be a pedestrian overpass to take passengers across Montlake and a path leading them to Rainier vista, where theyll be able to go straight up the vista to central campus or across the Montlake Triangle to the UW Medical Center.

The new design for the Montlake Triangle and Rainier Vista, approved in February by the UW Board of Regents.

Images by UW Capital Projects Office

The new design for the Montlake Triangle and Rainier Vista, approved in February by the UW Board of Regents.

The plan is the result of an agreement the University has made with Sound Transit, the Washington State Department of Transportation, the Seattle Department of Transportation and Metro Transit. The Board of Regents approved the plan at its last meeting. A written memorandum of understanding is being signed by all parties, and design work is under way.

According to University Landscape Architect Kristine Kenney, the University has been negotiating with Sound Transit about its access to campus for some time. A year ago plans were laid for an at-grade crossing from the station to Montlake Triangle. But the Washington State Department of Transportation got involved because it controls Montlake Boulevard, and the department opposed an at-grade crossing.

The pedestrian overpass is also a change from Sound Transits original plan, Kenney said, which was to build a much longer overpass terminating north of the triangle, near Wilcox Hall. The University opposed that plan because it would have made it difficult for people to get from the Sound Transit station to the medical center.

The original design for the Montlake Triangle feartured an at-grade crossing from the station to Montlake Triangle.

Image by UW Capital Project Office

The original design for the Montlake Triangle feartured an at-grade crossing from the station to Montlake Triangle.

The current plan calls for the overpass to cross Montlake Boulevard just south of the intersection with Northeast Pacific Place. Sound Transit passengers will be able to take an elevator from the train platform underground to the level of the overpass. A stairway and escalators lead to the overpass from the sidewalk on Montlake, as does a separate bicycle ramp. Cyclists and pedestrians will be together on the overpass itself.

Once across Montlake Boulevard, the path will lead southwest across the Montlake Triangle to Rainier Vista. Northeast Pacific Place will be lowered and covered at this point so that pedestrians headed to central campus can do so over a land bridge. Those headed to the medical center will continue southwest and come out on Northeast Pacific Street at a crosswalk. Cyclists can take a path to make connections with the Burke Gilman Trail.

“Were going to completely re-landscape the triangle,” Kenney said. “The open space of the vista will be carried across to the triangle area, as will the forested edges. By doing this, were able to strengthen the view of Mount Rainier and to screen out some of the visual clutter of the Montlake-Pacific intersection.”

The trees that are currently on the site are Leyland cypress and are dying from disease, Kenney said. And, they are trees that branch all the way to the ground, allowing no light penetration.  ”The proposal in the plan is to plant deciduous trees with a higher canopy, to provide more transparency through the landscape,” she said.

The trees to be planted have not yet been selected, but big leaf maples are under consideration.

Work on the project will come in three phases:

  • Phase one is the construction of the pedestrian bridge, to be completed by Sound Transit. That work will be done in 2012 and 2013.
  • Phase two is the Rainier vista land bridge, to be designed and constructed by the University in 2014.
  • Phase three is all the landscaping, planting and paving on the triangle. The UW will also be in charge of this work, which is scheduled for 2015.

The total cost of the project is $43 million, of which the UW will provide $4 million. Sound Transit will contribute $12 million and the Washington State Department of Transportation $22 million (from SR 520 funding).

The Seattle Department of Transportation and Metro Transit were involved in the negotiations, Kenney said, because bus routes are proposed to be modified and bus stops relocated. Under the plan, some buses from the East Side will terminate at the UW. The bus stop currently at the intersection of Northeast Pacific Street and Northeast Pacific Place will be moved further east on Northeast Pacific Street. Buses will let passengers off, turn on Pacific Place and return to the East Side. The bus stop currently on 520 will be abandoned.

Kenney says the plan will not only improve the look of the triangle, but also make it more accessible to people with disabilities. There will be no steps, as there are now, and the whole area will be graded at a slope that does not require ramps or handrails.

“We think it will smooth the way for anyone entering campus from that direction,” Kenney said. “Whether theyre arriving on Sound Transit, on a bike or on foot, there will be a direct route to get where theyre going.”

Meanwhile, Sound Transit reports that the southern portion of the UW station “box” is 99 percent complete and the contractor is preparing to pour the 10-foot-thick concrete slab that will create the station floor. This will require approximately 7,000 cubic yards of concrete, more than 20,000 linear feet of electrical conduit and more than 1 million pounds of rebar. The work is scheduled to be completed in late March or early April.