Broken tiles mean light rail in Rainier Valley will run less frequently this summer

Sound Transit will run its Rainier Valley light-rail trains 20 minutes apart instead of every eight to 10 minutes for a few weeks this summer, so crews can replace the worn-out Columbia City station tiles.

These service cuts will be from July 11 to July 24, then from August 22 to September 4. They will also reduce light-rail capacity by half for passengers between Stadium Station and Seatac, where people can expect crowded railcars. North and South bound trains will run alternately on the same track around the Rainier Valley construction zone.

The same yellow, ceramic tiles are cracking and rising prematurely at Othello and Rainier Beach stations, where repairs are expected next summer.

But there is good news.

sound transit went back hard core plan Announced May 31 to reduce the entire 1 line, including downtown and the University District, to the same 20-minute frequency during tile work.

Instead, many trains serving the north side of the city will return to Stadium station, so they maintain the normal 10-minute frequency between Stadium and Northgate stations, the agency plans to announce Tuesday.

Sound Transit initially thought that reducing the entire system to a 20-minute frequency was the best option because riders would not be confused, and trains would be more easily synchronized.

Transit riders slammed the agency on social media and public commentsWhile the urbanist called the plan “Tile-Magdon”. To downgrade the service sends the wrong message, activists said, now that trains are refilling since the worst of the pandemic. The low frequency will increase the public’s frustration over escalator failures.

Executive director of operations Suraj Shetty said “because of the feedback we have received” officials reconsidered the plan, and maintained the 10-minute frequency for 66,300 or more daily commuters.

Additional trains through the city core can also turn north between the stadium and Sodo stations, using the additional “pocket track” that usually helps provide additional trains for sports fans after the game.

Passengers from North Seattle traveling beyond stadiums, including traveling to Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, should board trains that display the “Angle Lake” sign instead of one that says “Stadium Station,” said spokesman Geoff Patrick. .

But he warned that the slightest problem could cause the 10-minute timing to fail. Chances are, if they are heading south, some commuters will stop by at the stadium station.

mossy grout

After only 13 years, Patrick said, ceramic platform tiles are breaking prematurely. The adhesives at the bottom are failing. Water seeps in, the water freezes and the water melts, further prying the tiles from the concrete base.

There are 940 of the 1-by-1-foot yellow tiles on each side of the Columbia City station floor., A visual prompt to avoid the edge of the stage, and tactile guidance for visually impaired persons.

Friday morning walks showed 25 broken tiles on the boarding edge on the north side and 15 on the south side. At least three tiles were completely missing in neighboring Othello station, and there is a quarter-inch bump in the middle of the platform on the south side where the tiles lift up and a person could stumble. During this unseasonably wet spring, moss grows in the grout, and the three valley stations have the highest exposure to the weather.

This isn’t the first tile failure to be blamed for weathering and failed adhesives. Sound Transit spent $250,000 in 2013 To replace loose tiles at SODO station. according to budget of 2022Changing tiles at multiple stations would cost around $4 million.

Shetty said the damaged Rainier Valley tiles are being repaired or replaced monthly but are not sustainable. Shetty said that till date there is no report of falling from damaged tiles.

“It’s an unacceptable long-term risk that someone could fall into the trackway,” Patrick said.

The new tiles will be 2-by-4-feet, made of polymer instead of porcelain, and will be fastened using screws. All those changes should make the edges of the station more durable and less porous, he said.

a long commute

Sound Transit will cover its 24-mile system with signs and audio announcements as early as July 11.

About 29% of all light-rail passengers board a train at Sodo Station and head south, where the worst disruptions will occur.

More repairs and inconveniences are coming.

The tile replacement is the first of five projects that Sound Transit calls Future Ready. The second, to improve the downtown overhead power wiring, will reduce train service over the weekend of October 21–23 and November 11–13. The other steps would be to improve the signal and add track switches.

Shetty said the agency wants to eliminate these jobs before 2024 when new lines open for Linwood, Redmond and Federal Way — and an obstacle like tile repairs will delay thousands of commuters.

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