Monday, December 10, 2007

King of Summer

Approximately 18 months from today, Sound Transit expects to begin offering light rail service from downtown Seattle to Almost-The-Airport. (They will begin offering service on the additional distance to the airport, they say, about six months after that.) With the addition of the light rail line down the center of MLK, the entire area has seen massive changes. The street, obviously, has been widened and improved. Streetlights, sidewalks, and landscaping have been added in many areas. Several of the future stations have small plazas with benches and trees already nearly completed.

About a mile north of our house on MLK, the sidewalk widens for a few blocks, becoming a broad pedestrian boulevard that could easily let four or five people walk abreast. Saplings have been planted between the sidewalk and the street here as along much of the route. You can imagine a summer stroll to the light rail station, ten years hence, in the dappled shade of tall oaks and maples.

For one short segment, you don't have to use your imagination. A huge old oak sprawls skyward above the sidewalk. The first time I walked that route I was delighted to see the smooth new sidewalk take a sharp bend to the left around the tree, squeeze out into the street parking area, bump up and back down over old roots, and swing back to the right to resume its straight course. Who knows how many other trees were torn out to make room for the necessary street-widening and sidewalk-adding? But this one, at least, stands impassive where it has stood for years, now nestled in the new curve of acquiescent sidewalk.

I try not to anthropomorphize the world around me too much. But when I pass, I find myself unable to resist reaching out to pat its bark appreciatively. I am glad the planners--for whatever reason--found themselves forced to bend their pavement to spare an oak for a few more decades.

You can see more about the light rail project over at Sound Transit's website.