University Link light rail extension opens March 19

Jan 26, 2016

Underground extension with stations at Capitol Hill and University of Washington opening ahead of schedule, under budget

Sound Transit today announced the University Link light rail extension will open to passenger service on Saturday, March 19, six months ahead of schedule and more than $150 million under budget. 

“University Link opens March 19th, changing forever how we move around Seattle,” said Sound Transit Board Chair and King County Executive Dow Constantine. “With fast, frequent trains bypassing some of the region's worst traffic, thousands of people will now be able to get to work, school and appointments on time, every time.”

The 3.1-mile extension of the current light rail line that opened in 2009 includes stations on Capitol Hill and at the University of Washington near Husky Stadium. The trip from UW to downtown Seattle will take eight minutes, bypassing some of the most congested traffic in the region.

Through the efforts of U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, a senior member of the Senate Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Appropriations Subcommittee, and other congressional leaders, Sound Transit secured an $813 million federal grant for the $1.8 billion project. 

“As the Puget Sound region continues to grow, we need to make transportation investments that make our communities more livable, create jobs, improve access to education centers, and support our local small businesses,” Sen. Murray said. “That's why I am so thrilled to see Sound Transit reach this milestone on this important project for commuters and communities, and it’s why I am going to keep fighting for local investments like these that help our economy grow from the middle out.”

Online clearinghouse for University Link launch

Sound Transit today also launched a new online clearinghouse at www.ulink2016.org for information about the extension and what riders can do to prepare for opening day including how to enter a “golden ticket” drawing to be among the first passengers on opening day. In the coming weeks the new website will also host detailed information about opening weekend activities.

Sound Transit has coordinated the University Link opening with King County Metro, which is planning a major restructure of bus routes in Northeast Seattle to serve the University of Washington Station and improve connections.

Bus route changes start March 26, which gives a week for train operations before Metro adjusts transit routes and schedules. Both agencies are focused on ensuring a smooth launch of train service and implementing the restructure of bus routes to better serve transit customers.

Trips from UW to Rainier Valley will take about 20 minutes and about 45 minutes to SeaTac International Airport.

The University Link extension is expected to add up to 12 million more annual riders on the light rail system by 2020.

Later this fall, Sound Transit will also open the 1.6-mile light rail extension from SeaTac/Airport Station to the new Angle Lake Station near South 200th Street in SeaTac.

By 2023, Sound Transit will operate nearly 50 miles of light rail lines extending to Lynnwood in the north, Bellevue and Redmond’s Overlake area to the east and the Kent/Des Moines area in the south.

Sound Transit established the budget and schedule for the University Link project in 2008 and broke ground in 2009 after successfully overcoming major engineering challenges and securing the Federal Transit Administration's highest possible rating for the project.