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The Central Link Light Rail Opens for Business to the Public

Autumn 2009

The much anticipated grand public opening of Central Link Light Rail succeeded all of Sound Transit's expectations when over 92,000 riders boarded the trains on opening day Saturday, 18 July 2009. The exceptionally nice weather drew large crowds of passengers, spectators, and pedestrians who had anxiously awaited the new light rail expansion.

Central Link Light Rail trains operate inside the bus tunnel and take passengers between downtown Seattle and Tukwila. A 1.7-mile extension from Tukwila to Seattle-Tacoma International Airport will open late 2009. Sound Transit has also started work on extending the initial light rail segment that will connect downtown Seattle to the University of Washington.

In 2001, BergerABAM was selected by Sound Transit to be the prime consultant for the new Mount Baker Station and an elevated guideway between the Beacon Hill tunnel east portal and the median of Martin Luther King Jr. Way South at South Walden Street. Touted as the gateway to the Rainier Valley, the glass-adorned, 30,000-square-foot elevated Mount Baker Station is ornamented with colorful light fixtures, painted-glass murals, and painted ceilings.

BergerABAM led the civil and structural design of the 2,000-foot-long, cast-in-place concrete box girder guideway and the Mount Baker Station segment. The BergerABAM team was responsible for the final design of the structure, roadway, utilities, and drainage for the Martin Luther King Jr. Way corridor. The firm also coordinated the construction packaging for the project, including the architectural, landscape, traffic systems, and trackwork designs.

BergerABAM's project manager, Susan Rakow Anderson, describes the project with pride and enthusiasm. “The station features a tall, slender, stair/escalator framing made of glass, brick, and steel. Enclosures had to be carefully detailed to abut the massive concrete guideway and platform structure, which had very different seismic behaviors and displacements. To make things even more complicated, the design had to comply with Sound Transit's stringent, two-level earthquake criteria for the concrete guideway, and also with the Uniform Building Code criteria for the glass, brick, and steel. All of the structural steel will be visible, so careful detailing was required. It is an elegant structure.”

Principal-in-charge, Bob Griebenow, described the project as “especially complicated, because structures had to fit the existing street and utility network, and required meticulous coordination with both Sound Transit and the City of Seattle.”