UW News

December 11, 2003

Alternative Sound Transit options would protect sensitive research

News and Information

UW officials believe that two alternatives for routing Sound Transit light rail trains through the University District may not substantially disrupt sensitive research on campus.

UW Regent Sally Jewel, in a Dec. 5 letter to Sound Transit CEO Joni Earl, proposes that the West Tunnel Brooklyn alignment with two stations would have “isolated impacts on research activities that the University believes can be remedied or mitigated, and could therefore be supported.” Jewel chairs the Regents’ Capital Assets Committee.

The Montlake (or Rainier Vista) alignment, on the other hand, would eliminate sensitive research, specifically research involving the use of optics, interferometry or nuclear magnetic resonance that is currently being conducted in buildings in the area.

To protect the University’s competitive advantage in research — both current and future capabilities — the UW has worked with Sound Transit and identified a threshold for vibration and electromagnetic interference that would protect not only current research but future research. Few other urban campuses enjoy the same level of vibration stillness that the UW has, which gives the UW a competitive advantage as it recruits top researchers from around the country.

“Such an advantage is critically important for our region to maintain as the UW continues to be an economic engine for the area, bringing in over $933 million in funded research during 2002,” said Jewell.

However, if the Montlake alignment tunnels could be routed to avoid the science and engineering buildings, moving the Sound Transit station east of Montlake Boulevard and adjacent to Husky Stadium, this alignment might well reduce the UW’s concerns about maintaining the competitive advantage Rainier Vista currently offers and interference with sensitive research which is currently being conducted in that area of campus. “We believe this modified route has sufficient merit to warrant the necessary additional engineering and environmental work,” Jewel wrote.

“This is a very exciting development,” said King County Executive and Sound Transit Board Chairman Ron Sims. “A strong partnership with the University of Washington is key to bringing Link light rail north. I will ask the Sound Transit Board … to direct staff to do the additional engineering and environmental work on a modified Montlake alignment for routing Link light rail through the University District and add it to the alignments being considered during the environmental review process.”