Rare Glimpse Deep Inside The University Light Rail Station | KUOW News and Information

Rare Glimpse Deep Inside The University Light Rail Station

Sep 11, 2014

The first of many escalators to descend 90 feet below ground to the light rail platform. The station is scheduled to open spring 2016.
Credit KUOW Photo/Joshua McNichols
The new station, viewed from the exterior
Credit Joshua McNichols / KUOW

The subway platform remains quite plain, as Sound Transit spent the 1 percent of the budget allocated to art on the mezzanine.
Credit KUOW Photo/Joshua McNichols
A diagram shows how a rider descends to the station platform.
Credit KUOW Photo/Joshua McNichols
Inside the above-ground portion of the station.
Credit KUOW Photo/Joshua McNichols

The University Link Light Rail station at Husky Stadium is almost finished. The station is part of a route that will eventually connect downtown Seattle to Northgate. On Wednesday, reporters were given a rare glimpse inside.

The shiny glass and metal box in front of Husky Stadium is the most visible part of the new subway station.  

But that’s just the surface. For the rest, you must go deeper. I don the safety vest and hardhat I've been given and join the contractors in the elevator for our nine-story descent.

Down on the subway platform, we’re deeper than everything. We’re deeper than shell deposits left by Native Americans around Lake Washington. We’re deeper than where Chinese laborers dug, when they created the nearby Ship Canal. We’re deeper than a well.

We stop on a mezzanine level, where passengers will be able to buy their tickets. Sound Transit project manager Mark Pickerill directs my attention to a big piece of artwork. It looks like a giant Lite-Brite

"The metal panels are perforated with a pattern," explains Pickerill. "And that pattern is representing the soil layers. So you had sand, clay, glacial till …"

The subway platform level is under a lot of pressure, literally. All those layers of soil really want to cave in on us.

To keep that from happening, the contractors treated the excavation like they were digging a mine.

They dug a little bit, then built a concrete box in the hole. Then, they continued digging below the concrete. 

The concrete walls down here are 4-feet thick. The process was like building a skyscraper one floor at a time, upside down.

Back on the surface, Pickerill looks back at the project. It’s almost done.

"We’ll keep a construction fence around it so people understand it’s not open and we don’t have people walking up to the elevators and trying to go in. But it’ll be done by the end of the year." 

Riders should be able to catch a train here in spring of 2016.