Historic Monorail Station at Seattle Center Will Be Made Fully Accessible to All Riders Thanks to $15M Federal Grant

Press Release

Date: Dec. 16, 2022
Location: Washington D.C.

Today, U.S. Senators Patty Murray (D-WA), a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, and Maria Cantwell (D-WA), chair of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, announced that the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) will award a $15 million grant to the City of Seattle to make the Seattle Center Monorail Station fully accessible under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

In October, Senators Murray and Cantwell both wrote letters to FTA urging their support of the project.

The money is being awarded through FTA's All Stations Accessibility Program (ASAP), which aims to make America's oldest transit systems accessible to people with disabilities. Senators Murray and Cantwell supported the funding for the new ASAP program through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL). The program is funded at $1.75 billion over five years. Since passage of the BIL last November, Washington state has received $3.7 billion for nearly 500 transportation projects.

"Public transit is meant to serve the public, which means that it has to be accessible for everyone who needs to use it. The Monorail has not been updated in over 60 years and is inaccessible for too many individuals. That is why Senator Cantwell and I fought so hard to secure this funding to finally make the Seattle Center Monorail inclusive for everyone. This is a win for the City of Seattle and everyone who rides the monorail," said Senator Murray.

"Every year, more than a million riders rely on the historic Seattle monorail to get them where they need to go. But for passengers with disabilities, the Seattle Center station just isn't accessible. This project will level the station platform, improve the ramp to the platform, construct an elevator, and install tactile wayfinding features -- all upgrades that will make riding the Seattle monorail a better experience for all," said Sen. Cantwell.

"The Monorail is both an iconic connection to Seattle's World's Fair past and an accessible, frequent, carbon-free transportation option to reach our always forward-looking Seattle Center and its resident organizations, including Climate Pledge Arena. We are thrilled that this significant investment will increase the Monorail's ADA accessibility, improve service for all transit riders, and strengthen its infrastructure. We are very grateful for the leadership, advocacy, and support of Senator Murray and Senator Cantwell to advance this important project," said Mayor Harrell.

The Seattle Monorail, built in 1962, was the nation's first full-scale commercial monorail system. The quick, traffic-free ride between Seattle Center and Downtown is still popular, attracting 1.1 million riders between January and August of 2022. Approximately 12 million people visit Seattle Center every year.

Currently, the only ADA compliant access to the Seattle Center station platform is via a roundabout route through the Armory building -- and when the Armory is closed, that route is closed too. Also, because the platform edge and train door openings aren't level, Monorail staff must place a portable ramp down for wheelchairs to safely enter or exit the train.

The project will improve accessibility by:

Leveling the station platform
Improve the ramp from Thomas St to the platform to be ADA compliant
Creating a second accessible entrance that connects to the north side of the station, closer to attractions like McCaw Hall, the International Fountain, and the Theater District
Improving tactile wayfinding for passengers who are blind or visually impaired
Including more language options and translations
Improving lighting and pathways
Providing a vertical transportation options such a lift or elevator
The total cost of the project is $23 million. In addition to the $15 million FTA grant, the project will receive $5 million from Move Ahead Washington and $3 million from the Puget Sound Regional Council.

Sen. Murray's letter of support is available HERE. Sen. Cantwell's letter of support for the project is available HERE.