Tukwila Sounder Station

Trains, buses, cars, bikes and pedestrians will seamlessly come together when the Tukwila Sounder Station is complete in late 2014. The new station may also be a catalyst for a new, dense urban center. Currently, there is little residential development near the station, but there are plans for mixed-use and retail. The Boeing Company plans on expanding its office campus on property east of the project. “It’s exciting how transit can transform an area,” says HEWITT Principal, Leah Ephrem.

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Rendering of the New Sounder Station

The existing Tukwila Station is a plywood platform that serves Sound Transit and Amtrak Cascades trains along with Sound Transit Express and Metro Transit bus pick up from the parking lot. The site is a strip of undeveloped land between the BNSF right-of-way and the Union Pacific Railroad (UPRR).

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Existing Station

In 2011 the US Department of Transportation announced a $7.9 million grant for a new intermodal station to replace the temporary facility.It’s a complex project with multiple stakeholders including the cities of Tukwila and Renton, UPRR, King County Metro Transit, BNSF Railway, Amtrak, Boeing, Seattle Public Utilities and Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT). “Working with multiple jurisdictions is a highly iterative process,” says Leah.

One challenge is keeping the existing station open and operational during construction. The new platforms are on top of an earth berm level with the track. Ramps and stairs bring commuters up from a new 390-stall parking lot and a large public plaza with bike racks and a bike cage. “We created a hierarchy of function and made clear distinctions between parking, the kiss-and-ride and bus loading,” says Leah. There is a separate roadway for bus circulation off of Longacres Way with a steel and glass shelter along the length of the platform. Paratransit has its own transfer area and shelter for accessible transportation.

Another challenge was an old timber railroad trestle that is still in use. Pedestrians need to cross under it to move along Longacres Way. With limited overhead height, HEWITT designed a ceiling structure to help people feel safe and secure. The ceiling extends outside the tunnel to invite people inside. The design is a kit-of-parts so that it could be assembled in the confined space while keeping the trains running. Lighting will enhances the space with some fixtures incorporated into a handrail to keep the space clear and uncluttered.

Tukwila Sounder Station is one of several commuter rail and bus facilities that HEWITT designed for Sound Transit, including Lakewood and Edmonds Stations. “Each station has its own unique character due to the differences in program, jurisdiction and the community,” says Leah. While they may look unique, the stations all share the ability to transform their community.

The station includes the art installation “Imaginary Landscape” by Sheila Klein. Integrated with the landscape and located at the heart of the station, she creates a “signature entry using landscape, light and sculpture”.

Leah is a Principal at HEWITT with a passion for transit planning and architecture. She can be reached at @LeahEphrem or lephrem@hewittseattle.com.