Sound Transit responds to worries about MLT light rail station design, parking

MLTnews last month asked Sound Transit for a response to concerns raised during the Mountlake Terrace City Council’s Feb. 17 joint meeting with the city’s Planning Commission regarding light rail station design and Mountlake Transit Center parking. Sound Transit spokeswoman Kimberly Reason compiled the following answers after talking with the Lynnwood Link Extension project team:

Issue: Planning Commission members said they felt that Sound Transit has not been collaborative with Mountlake Terrace commission members regarding physical station design and selection of artist.

ST response: Sound Transit began planning work with the City of Mountlake Terrace for the Lynnwood Link Extension project in 2010. As with all Sound Transit projects, our work on all aspects of Lynnwood Link follows established federal guidelines for all phases of environmental review and design, including final design, which is the phase the project is in now. Final design consists of three phases: 30 percent, 60 percent and 90 percent.

Last November, project staff held an open house to review early design concepts associated with the 30 percent plans, and the public was invited to provide input and feedback on these designs. Design concepts included height, location and lay-out of the station. Some of the feedback we received include having the station serve as an iconic gateway and ensuring that views of the woods and other natural elements be reflected in the design. (We also received a great deal of feedback on parking; please see our response to this in no. 4 below.)

With regards to our work with the city, Sound Transit staff have been meeting twice each month with city staff since 2015. Our work includes funding a consultant to facilitate City staff review of project designs and integrating the city’s feedback in these designs. We also helped the city convene a project advisory group last summer. The role of the group is to provide public perspective on artistic and architectural design elements for the project. This work will be ongoing through final design.

In addition to the 30 percent open house last November, Sound Transit collected and recorded design comments from the City and the advisory group. Sound Transit supports the City’s perspective that a prime art zone for the station is the portal under the future guideway over 236th Street Southwest, where integral art elements can contribute to creating a distinctive experience for station riders and people heading to and from Town Center. The architecture and art teams are also considering how acoustic panels that will shield highway noise can be designed to serve as positive visual elements for people standing on the train platform or looking at the station from the street below.

Sound Transit’s project team updated the city council on this work during the 30 percent design phase, which is now complete. The project is now preparing for 60 percent design, with additional open houses to take place during the 60 percent and 90 percent design phases. The project team has also offered to provide monthly updates to the Council.

Once final design is complete and the necessary permits are acquired, construction on the Lynnwood Link Extension will begin in mid-2018 for the start of service in 2023. Although a great deal of work is being done at the staff level and shared with the public at each phase of design, a great deal more work is needed to ensure that these designs gel — work that will certainly include gathering additional public feedback to inform these designs.

Issue: Concerns were expressed during the Feb. 17 meeting that station branding should reflect the city, so that people will get a sense of MLT when they use the station or when they drive by. It could be as simple as using city logo and/or colors. The feeling is that so far, ST hasn’t been open to this.

ST response: As shared above, Sound Transit has been working with the city in design of the project. This includes design of the Mountlake Terrace Station. The Sound Transit art team has provided two presentations on the station art and architectural elements in development to city staff and the advisory group. Given the station site’s unique configuration, the art opportunity will focus on contributing to a gateway over 236th Street Southwest and the plaza area under the station. This art opportunity could include the columns flanking 236th Street Southwest, the “ceiling” over 236th Street Southwest, the face of the guideway, and the acoustic panels over 236th Street Southwest at the panel level.

In terms of branding and community aesthetic, a unique pictogram for the station signage system will be developed in conjunction with the station naming process, which will be coordinated through the community as well as city and Sound Transit staff. Staff have already collected public ideas for station names written on ballots provided at the November open house. Consistent with Sound Transit system standards, only a Sound Transit logo would be displayed on the facility.

Sound Transit also conducted light rail station field trips with city staff and advisory group members to familiarize the group with how Sound Transit approaches station design. Sound Transit staff regularly communicate with city staff and advisory group members, including providing architectural and art drawings as design develops.

In addition, the art team is overseeing an artist selection panel that is comprised of community representatives from Mountlake Terrace, a Planning Commissioner, and art and design professionals that include an architect from the Sound Transit design team. The artist selection panel is convening in two full-day work sessions as follow:

– Feb. 10, Portfolio Review: a full-day of artist portfolio reviews that culminated in the selection of three finalists from a group of short-listed artists.

– Feb. 28, Finalist Presentations and Interviews: a second full day that included presentations by artists, interviews and panel deliberations that will result in selecting an artist to join the station design team. Following this process, the architect and selected artist will develop an art concept for the station based on the architectural and art elements described above.

Regarding artist selection, there is a desire to ensure that the artist selected has experience doing larger-size artwork that can minimize the perceived “ugliness” of a large concrete station.

The Request for Qualification (RFQ) for the station art opportunity was shaped by comments from city staff as well as advisory group and community members. Artists selected for the short list of candidates were pre-qualified by art staff based on artists’ commitment to address the unique character of the Mountlake Terrace community and ability to create large-scale, impactful artwork that could be integrated into the project infrastructure.

The artist chosen for this project is Kipp Kobayashi, an artist who teaches at Cal Poly Pomona. The Sound Transit art team will be working with Mr. Kobayashi to create an integrated artwork that is responsive to Mountlake Terrace’s unique site context. This link includes an excerpt from a report by Arts Commission Chair Judy Ryan to the Mountlake Terrace City Council on March 2, after the artist selection panel met again on Feb. 28 to finalize its decision.

Issue: Councilmembers, as well as the planning commission, said there is a need for more parking at Mountlake Terrace Transit Center, which is currently filled by 7 a.m. Is it true that ST is not planning to add more parking as part of light rail station design?

ST response: Regarding parking for the extension, the design plan includes adding approximately 500-plus new parking spaces at NE 145th Street, approximately 500-plus spaces at NE 185th Street and approximately 500-plus net spaces at the Lynnwood Transit Center. The decision to add parking at these locations is based on the following:

· There is nominal parking (20 spaces) at the NE 145th Street freeway stop
· There is no parking at NE 185th Street
· Lynnwood Transit Center will serve as the northern terminus for light rail until Link service reaches Everett in 2036.

With respect to additional parking at the Mountlake Terrace Transit Center, the Sound Transit 2 ballot measure approved by voters in 2008 does not provide taxing authority to build or operate additional parking at this location. As Sound Transit staff shared with the community during the environmental planning (EIS) phase, the reasons Sound Transit did not include additional parking for Mountlake Terrace Transit Center in the ST2 ballot measure are:

· The existence of a 900-stall parking facility at Mountlake Terrace Transit Center
· The plan to use bus-light rail connections to reduce auto congestion around the Mountlake Terrace Transit Center
· The overall net increase of parking corridor up- and downstream from the Mountlake Terrace Transit Center, which will likely draw off demand from parkers currently crowding at the facility

We understand the community’s desire for more parking at this location. However, per Washington state statute, Sound Transit cannot modify project plans once voters have approved these plans.

Mitigation for temporary transportation and parking impacts during construction are required, however. Sound Transit staff and executive management are currently coordinating with the city and other project partners to plan temporary parking locations for commuters during the construction period.

With respect to the potential for more permanent parking in the future, Sound Transit and City staff are evaluating possible opportunities for the city to acquire surplus property from Sound Transit after project construction for potential use as Transit Oriented Development. Such a development could potentially incorporate city-owned and -operated public parking.

Issue: There was a concern about what is perceived as an ST promise to add an additional light rail station at 220th Street Southwest, which may not happen after all.

ST response: The potential for a future station at 220th Street Southwest has been identified in the Sound Transit Long-range Plan. While this station is not funded under the Sound Transit 3 (ST3) ballot measure that voters passed last fall, public feedback gathered during the two-year public involvement process for ST3 resulted in locating the rail alignment in such a way to allow construction of a station at 220th Street Southwest once future funding is identified.

(Note: Sound Transit 3 is the third phase of regional mass transit expansion in King, Pierce and Snohomish counties; hundreds of projects have been identified in the long-range plan for potential funding in future phases of mass transit expansion.)

— By Teresa Wippel

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