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Originally published January 12, 2011 at 9:28 PM | Page modified January 12, 2011 at 9:48 PM

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Light-rail plan gives UW a 'front porch'

When light-rail trains reach Husky Stadium in 2016, the campus would gain a "front porch" linked to the main campus that features mountain views from a tree-lined path.

Seattle Times transportation reporter

When light-rail trains reach Husky Stadium in 2016, the campus would gain a "front porch" linked to the main campus that features mountain views from a tree-lined path.

The $38 million project, unveiled to the public Wednesday night, also calls for pedestrian bridges over Montlake Boulevard Northeast and Northeast Pacific Place traffic, linking the light-rail station and University of Washington buildings to the Rainier Vista Triangle.

The university gains a landmark walkway downhill from campus, into the triangle that faces Mount Rainier — that grand entry was a feature of the 1909 Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition, held on what became the university grounds.

In the middle of the triangle would sit a grassy rectangle, and a paved plaza, flanked by maples and eventually some evergreens.

Bernie Alonzo, a landscape architect for Gustafson Guthrie Nichol, working for the UW, said the design revives the idea of mountain views through "an axis cut out in the trees," which was favored by the Olmsted Brothers, who designed the 1909 Exposition grounds and several Seattle parks.

The triangle then becomes a "front porch" linked to the main campus, instead of continuing to be underused, in a limbo between the stadium, the campus and the medical center, he said.

But the plan does cost more than four times as much as Sound Transit's original $8 million bridge, a narrow overcrossing from the station directly to upper campus. The UW regents and the city approved the simpler bridge in 2008, but the university later suggested a more ambitious vision that makes use of the triangle and aids bus routes.

In a tentative agreement among five governments, the state Department of Transportation (DOT) agreed to supply $22 million from its Highway 520 bridge budget, because the triangle plan enhances the bicycle and pedestrian trails that will be part of a new six-lane, $4.6 billion crossing, according to Kerry Ruth, a DOT project manager. Sound Transit pledged $12 million, and UW $4 million.

Sound Transit expects a final agreement soon, for its governing board to consider in February, so station design and construction can stay on schedule.

King County Metro Transit likes the new design because it allows Northeast Pacific Place to be lowered, and adds room for more buses to load passengers there, said David Hull, supervisor of service planning.

Another improvement is the availability of multiple stairways, ramps, bikeways and wide sidewalks to reach the triangle or station. The 30-foot-wide overpass above Montlake Boulevard splits at either end into thinner ramps. "We wanted to create a more delicate approach as it comes to Rainier Vista," said John Patterson of LMN Architects, who is designing the bridge portion.

Mike Lindblom: 206-515-5631 or mlindblom@seattletimes.com

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