Clock removal leads to weeks of inconvenience for light rail riders

Apr 28, 2023, 7:13 AM | Updated: Apr 29, 2023, 7:54 am

Westlake Station...

A light rail train at Westlake station in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

(Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

Sound Transit has changed the way riders are getting through the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel as engineers investigate damage to the roof of the structure.

A Seattle civic improvement project over Westlake Station has turned into a weeks-long hassle for light rail riders trying to ride through downtown.

Sound Transit says it all started last Tuesday when crews removed the historic Ben Bridge street clock from the location at 4th and Pike Street, where it’s been since 1928.

Sound Transit opening new parking garage at Lynnwood Transit Center on Monday

Unbeknownst to workers, their act of digging up the concrete holding the clock opened up a hole in the roof of the downtown Transit Tunnel over Westlake Station.

At first, it appeared to be a relatively simple fix. But more than a week later, when Sound Transit crews got a better look at the situation, they determined those fallen bricks and tiles were just the beginning of a potentially serious situation.

“As we looked at the damage, we realized it was much more extensive than we thought,” says Sound Transit spokesman John Gallagher. “Therefore, we really had to shut down the platform to do further work to investigate what needs to be done to repair the structural damage that was caused.”

Sound Transit Public Information Officer Rachelle Cunningham said Friday evening, they changed the stations where north and southbound passengers must board another train to get through the tunnel.

Now, all riders transfer at the Pioneer Square Station, which is the southernmost station at the tunnel entrance. 

“Trains coming from the north and south all terminate at Pioneer Square Station”, says Cunningham. “And, people who are continuing from that station will need to exit the train and transfer to the opposite platform to continue on their journey.”

Cunningham says they have also eliminated the use of a dedicated “shuttle-train” that only goes through the tunnel on a single track.

Now, regular service light rail trains are using switching equipment installed for the eventual eastside light rail extensions to cross over onto the single track open through the tunnel.

There are Sound Transit ambassadors on site, helping to direct passengers to their destinations.

In addition, transfer trains have been directed to hold for an additional 3-5 minutes, to give passengers an opportunity to exit one train, take the escalators and elevators upstairs, crossing the track bridge and coming back down again. Cunningham confirmed that as of Friday night, the lifting systems were all operational.  

This process will hopefully reduce additional travel time to about 20 minutes.    

So why did they have to remove the Ben Bridge clock from where it has marked the passage of time downtown for 95 years?

According to a report filed with Seattle’s Landmarks Preservation Board, the clock is to be relocated to 5th and Pine Street, in front of the Ben Bridge Jewelry flagship store.

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Clock removal leads to weeks of inconvenience for light rail riders