Today, Thursday, June 28, the Sound Transit Board unanimously approved my motion to create a new access strategy for the Northgate light rail station. This motion is the first effort to implement the new Sound Transit Board’s policy direction that emphasizes developing a variety of access modes to get riders to Sound Transit stations. It commits Sound Transit to funding $10 million in bicycle and pedestrian facilities, including a major contribution towards the proposed bicycle/pedestrian bridge over Interstate 5. It also specifies that Sound Transit will only fund replacement parking for the park and ride spaces that are displaced, and that this parking will be implemented in ways that will facilitate new housing on the current park and ride lots.
The Northgate station will be built in an area that is generally still fairly auto-oriented and has one of the only two existing park and ride facilities in the City of Seattle (the other is under the freeway at 65th Street between Roosevelt and Green Lake). This park and ride is an important connection for Metro Transit riders. It includes not only a number of spaces owned by Metro Transit, but leased multi-use parking at Northgate Mall and Thornton Place.
The long range vision for Northgate calls for its transformation into an Urban Center, with housing, employment and light rail access, along with the evolution of the mall into a downtown like environment. Ridership is planned to triple when light rail replaces Metro buses as the primary transit mode, and many of these new riders are expected to walk, bike, or take buses to the station. New transit oriented development will make it easy and convenient for thousands of potential riders.
Sound Transit is required to replace or mitigate the loss of park and ride spaces that are displaced by the station and construction. This motion integrates that replacement with the long range vision for Northgate, including the development of transit oriented development on the park and ride lots.
The motion, which was approved unanimously by the Board, provides that Sound Transit will:
- Create a Northgate access improvement study to identify potential additional pedestrian and bike access improvements needed to enhance access to the current Transit Center and future Northgate Station inter-modal transit facility.
- Commit to fund 25% of the cost of the pedestrian/bicycle bridge across I-5 up to a maximum of $5 million. The City of Seattle will match Sound Transit’s $5 million contribution towards the I-5 pedestrian/bicycle bridge costs. The City will also seek other funding partners to secure full funding to complete design and construction of the bridge (total cost approximately $20 million). If a full funding agreement for the implementation of the I-5 pedestrian/bicycle bridge cannot be completed by July 2015, the Sound Transit Board will reallocate any unspent bridge funds to other priority pedestrian/bicycle projects identified through the connectivity and access study processes.
- Commit to match up to $5 million in City investments in pedestrian/bicycle facilities in and around Northgate Station consistent with the improvements identified and recommended by the access study.
- Limit investment in park-and-ride facilities to a new parking garage that accommodates 450 Park and Ride stalls, preferably in shared use. The 450 stalls and any additional stalls funded by private investment may be used to replace parking now provided at the King County owned park and ride surface lot currently east of the proposed station to allow that lot to be made available for transit oriented development that will bring ridership to North Link and support the added vitality of the Northgate Urban Center.
I am very pleased that Sound Transit and the City have worked out a practical plan that integrates transit oriented development with multiple modes of access to the light rail station. This positions Northgate to take the next steps towards realizing the vision of the neighborhood and the City. That vision of becoming and urban center is embodied in the Northgate Area Comprehensive Plan, and this is a major step towards implementation of that plan.