Modern transit centers for riders in Everett, Redmond to debut Monday

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Changes in bus routes
Frames must be added to the historic murals mounted on the atrium walls, and glue is still setting around miniature bronze ships traveling the blue terrazzo waterways inlaid across the lobby floor.

But Greyhound has already stocked its counter with tickets, new computer chairs await students in upstairs college classrooms, and sheltered bus bays are ready for thousands of patrons of Sound Transit, Community Transit and Everett Transit.

On Monday, the doors will open at Everett Station, one of two major suburban transit centers debuting next week. Thirty miles south in Redmond, the Overlake Transit Center opens the same day, promising expanded and more-convenient bus service for Eastsiders.

Both projects are part of a long-term effort to link the suburbs through express bus routes that run predominantly in high-occupancy freeway lanes. The two centers also are designed to become community gathering places as well as transit hubs.

Gov. Gary Locke is to help celebrate the opening of Everett Station, a $44 million project blending public and private rail and bus services with university classrooms, a career-development center and community meeting space. The federal government contributed $26 million, and other major funding sources included Everett, Sound Transit, the state and Amtrak.

Everett Station opening gala

Gov. Gary Locke is to speak at Monday's opening ceremony for Everett Station at 3201 Smith Ave., just off Pacific Avenue near downtown Everett. Music and displays begin at 11 a.m., followed by the 11:30 a.m. ceremony. A community open house will run from 12:30 to 7 p.m.
"This is unique, absolutely unique, especially with the educational component in there," Snohomish County Executive Bob Drewel said. "It's more of a community watering hole — the concept was well-thought out."

Everett has made good on its pre-construction hoopla about fusing the city's past, present and future in the 64,000-square-foot structure of glass and red brick.

Its three-story lobby evokes a sense of great rail stations of an earlier era. Soaring concrete arches help support the copper-tiled roof, and a staircase, somewhat in the style of New York City's Grand Central Station, rises to the second floor.

About $330,000 worth of artwork throughout the building, including the 58-year-old murals that once hung in the Weyerhaeuser cafeteria, celebrate the city's mill-town roots, its rail and water transportation and its modern connections to Boeing and high-tech. The terrazzo flooring is a map of the bay, rivers and estuaries that surround Everett, inlaid with replicas of ships that actually plied those waters.

The transit center lies in an industrial area just east of downtown Everett, and city boosters hope the long-term future includes a revitalization sparked in part by the impressive new building.

First, however, Sound Transit must fulfill its promise to bring commuter rail to Everett.

As originally planned, six daily round-trip Sounder commuter trains were to begin running early last year between Seattle and Everett. However, the state tab-tax cuts triggered by Initiative 695 cost the rail project $76 million, postponing addition of that route.

Now Sound Transit is talking about launching one or two Sounder round trips per day on the Everett route, perhaps by fall 2003.

Amtrak is expected to move into Everett Station in July. Although its new ticket counter is already in place, Amtrak can't start service until Sound Transit builds a rail platform and spur tracks off the Burlington Northern Sante Fe Railroad main line, which runs along the station's east side.

That project will include an additional parking lot on the far side of the tracks and a pedestrian overpass, bringing the total number of parking spaces to about 1,175.

The University Center will open in March, with courses offered by the University of Washington, Washington State University, and Western, Eastern and Central Washington universities. One classroom is hooked up for interactive, satellite-transmitted instruction via a large video screen.

WorkSource Everett, a career-development agency, is to open on the fourth floor in May. So will a first-floor cafeteria, which probably will be operated by the state Department of Services for the Blind.

Overlake Transit Center

Sound Transit's new Overlake Transit Center opens Monday along Highway 520, providing a hub for an expected 2,000 passengers a day and some of the region's large employers — Microsoft, Safeco, Group Health, Eddie Bauer and Nintendo.

Several routes will change, and employees in blue aprons will help riders find their buses and stops.

Some buses will enter the center from 156th Avenue Northeast, while others stop at bus shelters along freeway ramps at Northeast 40th Street — a move that can save five to 10 minutes at rush hour.

When they disembark, riders can walk down a wide stairway directly into the transit center, where a compass rose design is inlaid in a pedestrian plaza. Microsoft will provide dial-a-ride van shuttles between office buildings and the bus hub.

Next year a service building with a Redmond police substation, community meeting room, concession stand and restrooms will be built.

"Hopefully, it will become a community gathering place. Parts of it will be parklike," said Sound Transit spokesman Lee Somerstein.

Sound Transit provided $6 million toward the $8 million project, with the Federal Transit Administration, Redmond, Microsoft and Metro also contributing funds.

About a month from now, 209 parking spaces will be finished. Meanwhile, Sound Transit and Metro are reducing some bus trips on side streets, inconveniencing some riders.

The Seattle-to-Redmond Sound Transit Route 546, which runs through the Microsoft campus and past the Group Health Eastside Hospital, will be discontinued Monday. The alternative, a direct Route 545 schedule to the new transit center, leaves riders a few blocks short of the workplace. On the return trip to Seattle, they must walk on Northeast 40th Street to bus shelters at the westbound onramp.

Sound Transit officials say they will monitor ridership patterns, and local Metro buses continue to run through Microsoft.

A few blocks away, a separate Metro park-and-ride lot in Overlake should reopen in a few weeks, after work is finished on new low- income apartments and lot renovations there.

Diane Brooks can be reached at 206-464-2567 or Mike Lindblom can be reached at 206-515-5631 or