The Chinatown International District will soon become a light rail hub in Seattle. Lines from Bellevue (2023), West Seattle (2030) and Ballard (2035) are planned to connect here.
Doing this in a bustling neighborhood takes planning. All that light rail can’t fit into the existing International District Chinatown station, so the station would have to expand, said Cathal Ridge, Sound Transit’s central corridor director.
“We’re talking about a new station adjacent to the existing station,” he said.
A station like that could go beneath 5th Ave., but that would disrupt some 18 businesses. It could also go under 4th Ave, but that would disrupt 33,000 cars a day. It could go deep underground, as a deep bore tunnel, but that would cost more money. The soil in that area is filled tidelands, which would demand going deep to reach solid ground and avoid the deep pile foundations beneath historic buildings.
Any of these options would be hard for the neighborhood. Many businesses in the International District are still recovering from the construction of the streetcar line.
“This neighborhood is a little tired of transportation improvements,” said Maiko Winkler-Chin, a neighborhood leader in a stakeholder group advising Sound Transit.
But Winkler-Chin said there may be a way to soften the blow. It’s not just the construction of the light rail station she’s worried about.
“The 4th Ave. trestle right now is 109 years old,” she said, referring to a section of 4th Ave. that passes over the railroad tracks and may need to be replaced soon. Putting a new light rail station on 4th Ave. instead of 5th Ave. could turn two disruptive projects into one, she said. She wants to see that option studied further.
Seattle elected officials will advise Sound Transit on which options it should continue to study – at a meeting Thursday afternoon.