Cascade: Get involved with Northgate light rail planning

From Cascade's blog

Cascade Bicycle Club is working to make sure bicycle access to the future Northgate light rail station is safe and easy. They previously laid out a strong argument for investing in biking and walking infrastructure around the future station site, including a new, extremely effective biking and walking bridge over I-5 (see above).

Now, Cascade is asking people people to get involved with planning for this projected high growth area to ensure that biking and walking access is strong when the new station opens in 2020.

From Max at Cascade:

Date/time: Thursday, Dec. 8/6:00 – 8:30 p.m.
Location: Alijoya Senior Apartments at Thornton Place (450 NE 100th St)

With the station at 30 percent design and the station area plans still in early conceptual phases, it is essential that we submit our comments now on how the planned station and the surrounding station area serves bicycle riders. This is our chance to help get this project right.

Below we’ve identified our specific concerns with the current station area plans and key opportunities for improving bicycle access to and from the station. We encourage you to use these as “talking points” at the December 8 meeting to ensure that the final plans for Northgate improve bicycle connectivity, accessibility, and livability for everybody.

***

We need to prioritize and invest in Bicycle Master Plan (BMP) projects that serve the station. The BMP calls for sharrows on NE 100th St and NE 103rd St, a full bike lane on 1st Ave NE, and a bicycle/pedestrian bridge over I-5 at NE 103rd St that connects with the bike lanes on College Way NE (just west of I-5). These facilities are critical in realizing more than the 15,200 estimated boardings per day at Northgate by 2030 by providing safe, attractive and efficient opportunities for people to access the station by modes other than a single occupant vehicle. The Federal Highway Administration (FHA) recommends a three-mile radius for investing in projects that link bicycle travel with transit hubs like Northgate.

We need a viable and funded bicycle/pedestrian bridge over I-5. A bike/ped bridge over I-5 at 103rd St substantially increases the “catchment area” of the Northgate station, meaning that more people can access the station within a given walking or biking radius. It also would greatly increase the safety of getting to the station from the west side of I-5 by providing a car-free alternative to Northgate Way, which currently has over 30,000 vehicles per day.

To get this bridge funded and built, we need the City to push for a deal with Sound Transit, King County Metro, North Seattle Community College, and other public/private entities. Currently, there is no dedicated funding to advance design or construction. Not moving forward with this project will mean a lost opportunity for the station and community. 

We need more convenient and ample bike parking. Approaching the station from the east requires bicycle riders to dismount and walk about half a block to access the station bicycle parking. This design is inconvenient for those riding bikes to the station and will create a potential conflict between bicycle riders and pedestrians in “mixing area” adjacent to the station.

We need better and safer connections to the station. Accessing the future station via the bicycle infrastructure that exists now would be inconvenient and potentially dangerous. 1st Ave NE (the road running alongside the future station) is a high speed route and current traffic volumes are high enough that new infrastructure like buffered bike lanes would greatly improve safety for those accessing the station from the north or south by bike. NE 92nd St, Northgate Way, and N 117th St (further north) are currently the only means of crossing or going under I-5. Both NE 92nd St and Northgate Way are in need of actual bicycle infrastructure to dramatically increase safety and access.

We need Northgate to become a transit, pedestrian, and bicycle-oriented community. Increasing housing and workplace density in the Northgate station area along I-5 will place people closer to services, entertainment, and transit, creating a vibrancy and livability that encourages bicycle travel.

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24 Responses to Cascade: Get involved with Northgate light rail planning

  1. Anthony says:

    Building an overpass on I-5?! How much is that expected to cost? I have to wonder at such ideas as this, and the effectiveness of how many cyclists will actually use it.

    I’m leery of supporting anything now since I am not convinced we’re going to be given the best value for our money AND have our cycling needs met; there are many other parts of this city that need attention, and many other pressing safety programs I would like to see, but Cascade falls face-first in those areas. Seems like they cherry-pick what to go after.

    • Gary says:

      Thing is, not all projects have equal funding sources. Sound Transit with it’s limitless taxing ability, and bond fund raising can do pretty much whatever they decide. So as bicyclists, we need to make sure that they #1 don’t do things that are stupid for bicyclists, even if they don’t cost anything if done right the first time. #2, look to how to increase bicycle access.

      It’s got to be a hugely long commute for me to even bother to think about bothering with the transit system, but that’s not true for everyone. In fact I’ve gotten a number of folks to commute by having them do a mixed commute at first. Once they get a taste of riding, most of them start looking for reasons to skip the bus part. But for some the time factor enables them to ride one way all the way, and the other with transit.

      And I-5 is a huge blocking thing for a bicycle. Overpasses with car traffic are notoriously busy and hence dangerous. A few ped/bicycle overpasses in some key areas can be well worth it for the increased usage by both peds and bicyclists.

      • Tom Fucoloro says:

        I would add that by 2020, we could easily have a large, successful bike share system running in King County. Getting people to and from transit stop, especially critical ones like Northgate Station, is crucial for that system to work and for more people to be able to take the train in the first place. It would be silly to build this station without considering LOTS of bicycle trips every day, all day long (or at least as long as trains are running).

        In fact, if bike share were assumed as part of the design, that would be even better.

      • “Sound Transit with it’s limitless taxing ability…”

        That is possibly the most absurd thing I have read all year. Sound Transit has better taxing authority than other jurisdictions but they also have a virtually limitless “To do” list plus a pretty large risk of increased diesel prices to reserve for.

        Do not underestimate the potential for mixed-modal passenger potential. Looking around virtually any European rail station will reveal the possibilities.

      • Ugh… Edit off that last “potential”…

    • Chetan says:

      There are some pedestrian/bike bridges that wouldn’t be used much, but this not only acts as a bicycle connection, but as a connection to the community college, and many other offices/apartment buildings on the other side of I-5. I can imagine it being used quite extensively.

  2. Gary says:

    There should be an underpass at 115th and I-5 as well. If you look at google maps,

    http://g.co/maps/skvd6

    You can see that N. 92nd looks ok for bicycles, but then you have to go clear North to N 123rd before you can get across I-5. As there is no way to safely cross at Northgate way.

    • Tom Fucoloro says:

      That would be a looooong underpass. Not saying it’s impossible, but it would certainly be unique.

      And I don’t think 123rd goes through, either. I think the only crossing between Northgate Way and 130th is that weird one at 1st ave ne/n 117th st. 1st/117th doesn’t look great, but it looks like there’s room to make affordable improvements there. Plus there’s access there from 116th on the east side. Seems promising.

      I say we just turn I-5 into a city street with stop lights. Then there wouldn’t be a huge trench through the middle of the neighborhood and it would be WAY easier to get to the station. I feel like there might be some opposition to that idea, though…

      • Tom Fucoloro says:

        Wait, I know: The I-5 Woonerf…

      • Al Dimond says:

        It wouldn’t be unique — it’s much longer than the underpasses on the Burke up north, but it’s about half as long as the tunnel that’s part of the I-90. There are at least a few underpasses of Lake Shore Drive in Chicago — that’s not as wide as I-5, but pretty similar.

        I’ve biked on the existing 117th/1st overpass. It doesn’t look especially inviting, and you might not let young kids bike there, but it’s not so bad. To make that left turn down to 116th you’d have to plan ahead, of course!

        I actually think we should remove a lane from I-5 (and other urban freeways) every few years until it’s… at least greatly reduced in size. I don’t know how exactly to fill in the gorge, though. Reforming the whole corridor would take a lot of work over generations.

      • The I90 pedestrian/bike tunnel was created in space leftover above the motorized tunnels. It was relatively inexpensive compared to going back and creating an underpass for I5.

      • Here is more info on the I90 tunnel construction: http://www.theslowlane.com/paths/i90.html

  3. Bruce H says:

    How about a street level tunnel?

    Hire those guys near the Mexico border to dig it.

    But seriously, more access to these stops would be great. We build all these grand stations but they are not as accessible as can be. Take the Stadium stop. Only one way in and out. Granted there is not much going on around there but my walk to RE-PC could be so much shorter.

    • Gary says:

      That’s a riot!

      And it would be done in about a month as well. And yes, underpasses have a problem with homeless people camping out in them after dark. I just can’t tell from google maps whether that bit of freeway is up on pillars already or not. And if it was up, then a paved underpass would be easy.

  4. Nickbob says:

    I’ve been thinking about a similar notion for the Ballard Bridge, but what about adding a wide walkway / bikeway to the sides of the existing overpasses with a cantilever of some sort? Not cheap, but likely less than an entire new structure. Underpasses have their advantages, but after dark they tend to attract more than travelers.

  5. biliruben says:

    Trying to mitigate locating the station next to the massive wall that is I-5 is certainly a high priority. Personally, I would have liked to have seen north link take a left turn here and follow Aurora up to Lynnwood. Then seen another, much cheaper, surface train put down the middle of Lake City Way out to Bothell. I can dream.

    Anyway, another focus should be providing a reasonable way to serve people trying to get to Link from the northeast. Given the topography and the new bike lanes on 125th, Pinehurst Way seems like the obvious road to focus on. It’s a weird configuration now – sometimes 1 lane, sometimes 2. Just make it one, and put in a bike lane. Then make some combination of 115th and 5th/1st Greenways, and provide a comprehensive route to reach the station which minimizes climbs coming from the NE.

    • Nickbob says:

      And here I’ve been thinking small by imagining a streetcar up LCW to 145th. I like your idea much better. Most transit either bypasses the southern portion completely or flies by as express. Despite living two blocks north of it, I never ride it.

  6. Doug Bostrom says:

    We should seize every opportunity to bridge the Eisenhower Gulf of Seattle, aka “I5.”

    Of -course- there should be a pedestrian/bicycle overpass for the Northgate project; this is simply a matter of reclaiming what we enjoyed 50 years ago, what was taken away by the unleashing of a torrent of unbridged concrete through our city.

    • Brian says:

      Tom’s idea would be great here. Maybe in 75 years it would actually be politically possible to accomplish. Until then we can always visit Vancouver.

  7. David says:

    Someone else mentioned the community college, and it’s worth the extra emphasis. A lot of students are currently riding busses between the Northgate Transit Center and NSCC. Adding the pedestrian/bike overpass would help a lot of students (who often work jobs elsewhere in the city) get to school much more quickly.

    • biliruben says:

      They ride buses just to get around the vast canyon? If so, that’s sad on a couple different levels.

      • Jeremy says:

        Broken solutions for broken systems. Saves them from breathing too much of the vile I-5 air, and provides some hearing protection, I guess.

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