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No parking in plans for light rail station

This rendering shows passengers on the train platform to be constructed in the center lanes of I-90 and the ‘head house’ that will enclose the stairs and escalators at either end. Sound Transit planners estimate that by 2030, there will be 2,000 boardings per day on Mercer Island.  - Sound Transit/Contributed Image
This rendering shows passengers on the train platform to be constructed in the center lanes of I-90 and the ‘head house’ that will enclose the stairs and escalators at either end. Sound Transit planners estimate that by 2030, there will be 2,000 boardings per day on Mercer Island.
— image credit: Sound Transit/Contributed Image

About 75 Islanders came to hear and see about the proposed design for the to-be-named Sound Transit light rail station on the Island. The station, already referred to as the Mercer Island station, will be set between 77th and 80th Avenues S.E., south across S.E. 80th Street from the Park-and-Ride lot. Dozens of Sound Transit officials were in attendance to answer questions and describe the many design features of the project to community members.

The rail bed and station platform will be constructed in the existing center lanes of Interstate 90 right-of-way. In order to construct the station within the highway lanes, new HOV lanes are to be constructed on the outer lanes of the main line. The HOV center lanes will be shut down by the end of 2016 for the duration of construction, planned to end in 2023.

Passengers will enter and exit along 77th Avenue S.E. or 80th Avenue S.E. At both ends of the station platform, stairs, an elevator and escalator will move people up or down the 25 feet from the street to the platform level. At street level will be a large, glass enclosed ‘head house’ that will surround the passengers as they enter and exit. It will rise 45 feet from the platform level. That portion of the design is enclosed with glass and will be lit.

“It is to be open and light,” architect David Hewitt said. “At night it will become a beacon, like a lantern. It will make for an ‘expressive’ entrance to the station.”

In Sound Transit terms, the Island station is smaller than some, yet will be 80 feet longer than a football field from end to end. Some details about the design are still in flux to allow community members to weigh in. The selection and placement of art is yet to be determined.

The platform below street level will mostly be open, but will be partially covered with an awning-like structure. Since the platform will sit inside the existing highway right-of-way, tall acoustical walls will be constructed on either side. The public area above will be limited, but will include ticketing and bike storage.

The intention is to make the facility “a proud moment for the community,” Hewitt said.

Part of the public process will involve naming the station. Islanders will be encouraged to weigh in on what they think would be a good name, although Mercer Island would seem to be the only name that would make sense.

Engineers have worked for years on design to allow trains to travel safely across moving expansion joints on a floating bridge. It is a complex undertaking. The rail crossing of Lake Washington will only be the second one ever designed in the United States.

Testing of the water crossing included a weight test. Engineers brought in a logging truck onto I-90 weighted to simulate the load of an in-service rail car. Soon, two train cars will be sent to a testing facility in Pueblo, Colo., where a test track has been set up to simulate the Lake Washington crossing.

When the project is complete, Sound Transit officials expect 2,000 boardings each day on the Island by the year 2030. The segment running across the Island will add to a system that will be 50 miles long when it is completed.

Nearly all of the questions regarding the station from Islanders were about parking. Sound Transit will be working with the city to find a solution to the inadequate Park-and- Ride and the possibility of adding more parking at or near the site. But some Islanders worried about how to get to the station or be dropped off there.

Doug Wilkinson from Covenant Shores wanted to know if a shuttle could drop off seniors at either end. He was told that drop-off zones for either shuttle buses or cars have yet to be determined.

“I don’t consider it an asset for me,” said South end resident, Marc Berejka, echoing the sentiment of many. “I can’t make use of it without a place to park.”

In response, Sound Transit officials made it clear that neither the station design nor the placement of additional parking if any, was complete. Sound Transit’s Paul Bennett said there were additional pieces to be worked out. He said that there was talk about partnering with the city to find more parking.

For more information and to find out how to comment or suggest a name, go to www.soundtransit.org.

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