Light-rail station designs unveiled

The hilly terrain surrounding Sound Transit's planned light-rail line helps create a pair of unique settings for stations that could become landmarks in southeast Seattle.

On top of Beacon Hill, riders would walk through a sculpture plaza as they enter an elevator, lowering them 160 feet to the boarding platforms within an underground tube.

Less than a mile away, trains would emerge from that tunnel into an elevated station, encased in glass, near the crossroads of Rainier Avenue South, Martin Luther King Jr. Way South, and South McClellan Street.

Last night, about three dozen neighbors attended an open house to view the final design of the $45 million McClellan Station, the largest on the 14-mile line.

"It looks beautiful to me," said Kwan Li, who says she'll leave her car at home and walk 15 minutes to the station for daily trips to the Chinatown International District and her job in a downtown hotel. "This is very convenient. I'm very excited, but it will not be open until 2009."

The boarding platform is 380 feet long — to accommodate four-car trains that would be used if the line is someday extended to Northgate and Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.

In the long promenade beneath the tracks, artist Sheila Klein of Bow, Skagit County, has designed "Sky Within," a series of chandeliers that beam varying colors of light up against the multicolored rail bed.

Li asked about train noise. Tracks and wheels will be lubricated, and skirts will extend over the steel wheels to dampen sound, replied Johnathan Jackson, McClellan Station project manager.

Drilling has begun on a large test shaft for the $220 million Beacon Hill Station, where construction would begin next year if the rest of the initial $2.5 billion, 14-mile Central Link Initial Segment from Convention Place to Tukwila stays on schedule.

The project still must pass a federal inspection and gain Congress' approval of a pending $500 million federal grant.

Mike Lindblom: 206-515-5631