(As the big opening day for light rail is this Saturday, we want to post a bit about the stations that aren’t on Beacon Hill. Much of the coverage of the rail line focuses on using it for commuting to and from work, and many of us will be doing that. But even more than getting to work, Link is going to be useful for visiting places throughout Downtown and Southeast Seattle without a car. With this in mind, we’ve created a few posts about some of the station areas.)
Of all the stations on the Link light rail line, Tukwila International Boulevard Station is the most frustrating, at least, from the perspective of anyone who doesn’t live or work in the area. Of all the stations, it has the fewest neighborhood attractions to visit. What it does have that none of the other stations do is one thing: a 600-space park and ride.
Even Sound Transit’s own promotional materials struggle to find nearby attractions for this station. The Discover Link Neighborhoods Interactive Map gives as this station’s nearby attractions Southcenter Mall (about 1.75 miles away), the Interurban Railroad (historically interesting, but there really isn’t anything left of it to see), and the Museum of Flight, a whopping five miles away on East Marginal Way. (If you really want to see the Museum, and you’re willing to hoof it a bit, don’t take the train to Tukwila — get off at Rainier Beach and walk two and a half miles to the Museum, which is less than a mile away as the crow files, but is on the other side of I-5.) Other “points of interest” mentioned elsewhere by Sound Transit include Fort Dent Park (a couple of miles away) and Boeing Access Road (several miles away near the Museum of Flight, and not an “attraction” per se). In other words, there’s not much there there, near the station itself. We could all use a little more walking, but if you are willing to take the train to Tukwila only to walk 5 miles to get to the Museum of Flight, you’re a more intrepid walker than I.
What there is to see at this particular station is the station itself. Larger than most of the other stations, its design is big, glassy and modern. The roof soars above the station at an angle for takeoff, and the tracks elevated high in the sky make you think of a monorail instead of an earth-bound light rail.
Like the other Sound Transit stations, Tukwila has its share of art, including a giant milk drop caught in mid-splash, A Drop of Sustenance, and a huge brightly-colored molecule, Molecule of Tukwila, both by Tad Savinar. Outside the station grounds, though, there is not much art, but instead a suburban auto-oriented highway-strip neighborhood of the type that grows up around all old highways (in this case, it was formerly part of US 99, then SR 99): a gas station, McDonalds, KFC, a former casino, a Pancake Chef, bars and strip clubs populate the strip. There are nearby halal grocery shops, and a post office that stays open until late at night to accept your packages. Until the SeaTac Airport station opens in December, there will also be a shuttle bus waiting here to get you to the airport.
Ben Schiendelman commented recently on one of my photos of this station that “It’s a terrible place for a station this year, but not in 20 years. And it’ll be around for 150…” With luck we won’t need to wait that long for a reason to visit.