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A worker cleans a piece of art on the wall at Westlake Station

Deep cleaning the downtown stations 

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If you have at our downtown stations lately, you’ll have noticed that they are a lot cleaner than they have been in a long time. In fact, they positively glisten. That’s because we been doing a complete clean-down of our tunnel stations.

We’ve been deep cleaning all the public facing areas, including floors, walls, railings, stairwells, ledges and even the ceilings. 

The downtown stations were in need of the work after accumulating grime over the course of many years.

“They had 30 years of dust,” says David Dominguez, Facilities Maintenance Manager for Link.

While custodian crews would pick up trash and mop the stations, they were not staffed to do a deep cleaning and thus establish a baseline that we could maintain.  

Once Sound Transit took over maintenance in the downtown tunnel in 2021, the agency developed a plan to make the stations a lot more pleasant for riders.  Starting with the Chinatown/International District station last December, an outside vendor has been working through each of the four downtown stations. Work is currently wrapping up at Westlake, the last (and biggest) station in the group.  

The stations were so grimy that the work crews couldn’t always tell what they were cleaning. When told they needed to clean the overhangs at Westlake, they originally thought the soot-covered marble was just plywood. 

Cleaning the stations involved lots of scrubbing and hosing down surfaces, often after hours, when the trains aren’t running.

“These guys are incredibly efficient, and they attack it at all angles,” says David Patch, Facilities Maintenance Area Manager for Link.

Removing decades of dirt often means cleaning the same area over and over again. 

“There was a point where we auto-scrubbed the mezzanine at Westlake eight times,” says Patch. “I said this is the first time I would eat off this floor.” 

Indeed, the results are dramatic. The magnificence of the stone work, now cleaned and sealed, really pops, revealing details and colors that been obscured for years. 

“The downtown stations are beautiful,” says Patch. “There are millions of dollars of natural stone in those stations. The walls and floors are all marble. It’s the heart of the alignment.” 

Now that the stations are clean, the goal is to keep them that way. The custodial staff from King County Light Rail, which clean the stations daily, were engaged in watching how the stations were cleaned so that they would know the standards that they are expected to maintain. 

“This is what we define as clean,” says Dominguez. Custodians will be given the materials and resource they need to keep the stations that way. 

The goal is continue moving north, with deep cleaning at the stations from Capitol Hill to Northgate. After that, all stations in the system will be getting a deep clean.  The stations will then undergo a deep cleaning once a year to keep them sparkling.  

Next time you’re in the downtown station, take a minute to enjoy your surroundings. You might be surprised at how beautiful they really are.  

Before and after photos show the cleaning that's been done on the escalators at International District Chinatown Station
International District Chinatown Station
The walls of Pioneer Square Station are polished to a shine in the 'after' photo following a deep clean, compared to a 'before' photo
Pioneer Square Station
The top of a ticket vending machine pre- and post-polish
University Street Station
The floors of Westlake Station in before and after photos
Westlake Station

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