Ross: How did no one realize they were digging into the Light Rail?

May 5, 2023, 8:04 AM | Updated: 9:34 am

Westlake Station light rail hole...

Sound Transit's Westlake Station (Photo courtesy of Sound Transit)

(Photo courtesy of Sound Transit)

Sound Transit’s northbound light rail line through downtown is still closed because of that hole in the ceiling at Westlake Station.

And I want to thank the Seattle Times for yesterday’s article – which includes a diagram and a detailed explanation of exactly how it happened.

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For a change, it wasn’t because the concrete failed – as happened with the Highway 99 off-ramp from the West Seattle Bridge.

This hole happened because a demolition crew, whose job it was to remove a decorative sidewalk clock in front of Ben Bridge Jewelers on Pine Street, ended up digging too far down. Now, in fairness to the demolitionists, mistakes happen. And in this case, it turns out the ceiling of Westlake Station was just 33 inches below the Pine Street sidewalk. So it didn’t take much of a hole to cause all this trouble.

But I have to ask – how does anybody not know there is a giant light rail station under Pine Street?

I realize not everybody was here back in 1988 when downtown basically looked like the Panama Canal, but the demolition crew had to get a street use permit to do the project. And you would think that as part of the application process for the permit, someone would look at the address and at least ask the question – “do you guys know that there’s a giant light rail station 33 inches below that sidewalk?”

And if it turns out that nobody asked that important question, I think we have to know why.

Hindsight is 20-20, but isn’t that a reasonable question to ask? Even if it’s your own backyard, you’re supposed to ‘Call Before You Dig,’ right?

So if it turns out that nobody asked that question, I think we need to know why.

In the meantime, my advice is for the city to install bright orange signs on the streets around Westlake Center with a simple message: GIANT LIGHT RAIL STATION UNDER STREET. So that this doesn’t happen again. The last thing this city needs is another hole in the wrong place.

Listen to Seattle’s Morning News with Dave Ross and Colleen O’Brien weekday mornings from 5 – 9 a.m. on KIRO Newsradio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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Ross: How did no one realize they were digging into the Light Rail?