Seattle, WA (SEA)
A recently completed rehabilitation project included seismic retrofitting, installation of sustainable systems and restoration of the station's grand public spaces.
303 South Jackson Street
King Street Station
Seattle, WA 98104
Annual Station Ridership (2016): 649,491
- Facility Ownership: City of Seattle
- Parking Lot Ownership: City of Seattle, King County
- Platform Ownership: BNSF Railway
- Track Ownership: BNSF Railway
- Amtrak Cascades
- Coast Starlight
- Empire Builder
For information about Amtrak fares and schedules, please call 1-800-USA-RAIL (1-800-872-7245).
Seattle’s King Street Station was constructed in 1906 by the Great Northern Railway, replacing an earlier station on Railroad Avenue, today’s Alaskan Way. Designed by the firm of Reed and Stem of St. Paul, Minn., which was involved with the building of Grand Central Terminal in New York City, the station is composed of granite and red brick with terra cotta and cast stone ornamentation. The building was part of a larger project that moved the railroad main line away from the waterfront and into a 5,245-foot long tunnel under downtown. The distinctive clock tower is a Seattle landmark and was inspired by the bell tower on the Piazza San Marco in Venice, Italy; it was the tallest structure in Seattle when it was built. In recognition of its design integrity and important role within local railroad history, the station was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1973.
In the late 1960s the interior was modernized according to period tastes. The ornate plaster ceiling of the waiting room was covered for the next three decades by a fabricated, lowered false ceiling. Handsome metal chandeliers were replaced by fluorescent lighting and marble and mosaics on the walls were covered with plastic laminate.
Cosmetic renovations and modernization of services began in 2003. New platform and entrance canopies and brass fixtures were installed. Tall windows in the waiting room that were covered over in the 1960s were replaced by new wood frame windows, and now natural light floods the space. Decorative plasterwork in the waiting room was recreated and installed in the northwest corner across from the ticket counter.
The Compass Room, named for the navigational compass star design laid out in hand cut marble tiles on the floor, is located at the base of the clock tower and functions as the building’s entrance foyer. The renovations here included the installation of new mahogany entrance doors and marble cladding, painting and the restoration of ornamental plasterwork.
In December of 2006, the Seattle City Council formalized an agreement to purchase the station from the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway for $1. Later revised to $10, the deal was signed on March 8, 2008. The purchase freed up funds for further restoration, and the city devised a four phase rehabilitation plan to return the station to its original grandeur.
Phase I was finished in July 2009, and included repair of the clocks in the tower; removal of old microwave antennas; installation of decorative lighting to highlight the clock faces and upper tower; restoration of the neon “King Street Station” sign above Jackson Plaza; and replacement of the roof with new terra cotta tiles that replicate the originals.
Phase II, concerned primarily with upgrades to mechanical and electric systems, wrapped up in August 2011. In keeping with Seattle’s Sustainable Building Mandate, numerous “green” features were incorporated into King Street Station to lower energy consumption. One of the biggest projects was the drilling of 68 geothermal wells to power heating and cooling systems. The wells take advantage of near constant temperatures deep underground—approximately 300 to 350 feet below the surface—to provide heating and cooling; this allowed the city to eliminate the need for traditional boilers and chillers. About half of the wells were drilled beneath the new Jackson Street Plaza and the other half are located in an adjacent parking area.
Photovoltaic panels, which use the sun’s rays to produce electricity, were installed on parts of the canopy that circles the building at the King Street level. The Jackson Street Plaza, one level above King Street, had been used for parking prior to the restoration. During Phase II, it was reconfigured as a welcoming pedestrian space with raised planters that include trees and flowers. The original light fixtures along the edge were recreated, and tables and chairs encourage people to use and enjoy the area.
Phase III began in March 2011 to create new Amtrak baggage, ticketing, and office spaces, which opened to the public in May of the following year. Completed by the Seattle Department of Transportation, the work included new terrazzo flooring, salvaged marble wall panels, refurbished wood doors and upgraded lighting. On the west side of the station, a newly paved turnaround area accommodates Amtrak Thruway motor coaches.
Although the new baggage and ticketing facilities were finished in 2012, passengers used a temporary waiting area while work continued on the seismic retrofit and restoration of the historic main waiting room, which reopened with great fanfare in late April 2013. Passengers may now gaze up at the elaborate plasterwork ceiling, parts of which were patched while other details were recreated, and admire reproduction brass chandeliers.
Phase IV, the most important for the structural stability of the station, started in March 2012. It entailed the installation of seismic steel throughout the building and adjacent property to ensure that it can withstand future tremors; the clocktower received new cross braces. While the ground floor will be largely devoted to passenger services, space on all three floors is available for lease to commercial tenants.
The rehabilitated intermodal facility is a crossroads for important downtown neighborhoods, including the Commercial, International, and Stadium Districts, as well as world-renowned Pioneer Square. Numerous redevelopment plans have been proposed for areas adjacent to the station. Immediately to the west, ground was broken in late 2011 for a project that will transform acres of surface parking lots into a mixed-use district marked by residential, commercial, office, and recreational functions. To the east of the station—an area referred to as “Over Tracks”—three additional parcels have also been identified by the city for potential mixed-used development.
The multi-year rehabilitation project cost approximately $56 million. The bulk of funding came through a diverse array of federal transportation grants obtained by the Washington State Department of Transportation. The project received $7.5 million in Bus and Bus Facilities grants from the Federal Transit Administration; $6 million in Transportation Enhancements grants through the Federal Highway Administration, mainly to restore interior features such as the plasterwork and marble; and $16.7 million through the Federal Railroad Administration’s High Speed Intercity Passenger Rail program to support the expanded passenger facilities and seismic retrofits. In addition, $10 million in voter-approved city funds to match federal and state monies have been earmarked from the recent “Bridging the Gap” transportation levy, and Washington State contributed $10.1 million. The Washington State Historical Society, South Downtown Foundation, 4Culture Services Agency, National Trust for Historic Preservation and Amtrak have also contributed funds towards the project.
Seattle is served by the daily Empire Builder to and from Chicago, the daily Coast Starlight to and from Los Angeles and 12 daily Eugene-Portland-Seattle-Vancouver Amtrak Cascades trains. The Amtrak Cascades are primarily financed through funds made available by the Washington State Department of Transportation and the Oregon Department of Transportation.
- Accessible Platform
- Accessible Restrooms
- Accessible Ticket Office
- Accessible Waiting Room
- Baggage Storage
- Bike Boxes
- Checked Baggage
- Dedicated Parking
- Enclosed Waiting Area
- Help With Luggage
- Pay Phones
- Quik Trak Kiosk
- Shipping Boxes
- Ski Bags
- Ticket Office
- Wheelchair Lift