Regional transit history 1997 - 2003


1997-2003: Other planning studies

Even while fulfilling its Sound Move mission, Sound Transit has been involved in other transportation planning efforts underway around the region. These efforts include the WA State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) I-405 Congestion Relief and bus rapid transit (BRT) Project (formerly the I-405 Corridor Program) and the WSDOT SR 520 Bridge Replacement and HOV Project (formerly the Trans-Lake Washington Project).

These studies have refined and clarified the Long-Range Vision. Specifically, the I-405 study concluded that BRT was the preferred HCT technology for I-405 with a provision that a higher capacity transit might be required in the east King County "core." Similarly, the SR 520 studies have focused on HOV lane completion combined with additional express bus service.

In addition, several smaller planning studies have been undertaken of relevance to HCT facilities and operations. As Sound Transit updates its EIS and the Vision, it will incorporate this related planning work as it progresses and influences future HCT system-development thinking.




Sep1997 Sound Transit breaks ground, inaugurates bus service

Sound Transit launches its first transit improvements, partnering with Community Transit to accelerate construction of the new Ash Way park-and-ride lot near Lynnwood, and with Pierce Transit to add 15 daily trips to the highly successful Seattle Express bus routes between Lakewood, Tacoma and Seattle.

May 1998 "Most promising" Link light rail route alternatives selected for study

The Sound Transit Board, based on months of public outreach and comment, selects the 18 most
promising route alternatives to move into detailed study for the Central Link light rail system connecting the cities of Seattle, Tukwila, and SeaTac.

Nov 1998 New Regional Express bus routes approved

The Sound Transit Board approves 18 new Regional Express bus routes. The first nine routes will inaugurate service in September 1999. All routes will undergo refinements including establishing exact stop locations and local service changes to initiate Regional Express service.

Dec 1998 Draft Environmental Impact Statement issued for Central Link light rail system

The Draft Environmental Impact Statement is issued for the Central Link light rail system, presenting detailed information about the benefits and impacts of a variety of route alternatives for the light rail line connecting SeaTac, Tukwila and Seattle.

Feb 1999 ST Express and Sounder fares are established

A zone fare system and fare rates are approved by the Sound Transit Board for ST Express bus and Sounder commuter rail service.

Apr 1999 Agreement reached for track improvements between Tacoma and Seattle

An agreement in principle is reached between the region's railroads, ports, Amtrak, Sound Transit and the state Department of Transportation for $322 million in track, signal and safety improvements on existing railroad tracks between Tacoma and Seattle.

Aug 1999 Contracts authorized with BNSF for operation and use for Sounder service

The Sound Transit Board authorizes contracts with the Burlington Northern and Santa Fe Railway for use of track and facilities and for operation of Sounder commuter rail service, and for track, signal and safety improvements between Tacoma and Seattle.

Sep 1999 ST Express begins new era of regional bus service

The first nine of 18 planned new ST Express bus routes offering limited-stop express service begin regularly scheduled service.

Nov 1999 Sounder's first locomotives and rail cars arrive

The first locomotives and bi-level Sounder commuter rail cars arrive in preparation for the start up of rush hour service between Tacoma and Seattle in late 2000.

Dec 1999 Sounder's first commuter train makes its debut

The first demonstration run of Sounder's first train whisks nearly 400 dignitaries, media and invited guests between Tacoma and Seattle smoothly and quietly at speeds of up to 70 mph. The 40-mile trip is made in 42 minutes.

Feb 2000 Federal Administration commits to federal funding agreement for Central Link

The Clinton/Gore Administration announces it's intent to negotiate a full funding grant agreement with Sound Transit ; the contract assures federal funding levels for the Central Link light rail system.

Apr 2000 Sounder operations agreement reached with BNSF

An historic agreement is reached between Sound Transit and the Burlington Northern and Santa Fe Railway Company for the use of the 40-mile BNSF track between Tacoma and Seattle for Sounder commuter train service. The agreement guarantees there will be up to 18 Sounder commuter trips per day plus options for additional mid-day and special event service.

Apr 2000 Agreement reached for transfer of the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel to Sound Transit

King County, the City of Seattle and Sound Transit announce an agreement for the transfer of the existing Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel to Sound Transit in 2004 for conversion to light rail use.

Sep 2000 Sounder commuter rail begins serving the public with trains between Tacoma and Seattle

Sounder inaugurates its first service for the public with two trains each direction between Tacoma and Seattle daily, carrying more than 1,100 passengers on its first day in service.

Nov 2000 Negotiations are suspended on Central Link light rail tunnel

Following a report from Executive Director Bob White on negotiations for the design and construction of the light rail tunnel between downtown Seattle and the University District, the Sound Transit Board votes to suspend negotiations with the contractor-elect.

Jan 2001 Sound Transit Board accepts federal grant agreement, keeping Link light rail moving forward

The Sound Transit Board votes 14-1 to adopt the revised budget and schedule for the Central Link light rail project and to accept a $500 million federal grant agreement with the Federal Transit Administration. Staff undertakes a six-month work program to refine costs, construction approaches and schedules for the project, and to analyze different approaches for reducing the risks and costs of a tunnel crossing beneath Portage Bay and deep tunnel stations in the University District. FTA awards first $500 million federal grant agreement for Central Link light rail.

Jan 2001 The Federal Transit Administration signs a full funding grant agreement for the Central Link light rail

project, authorizing $500 million in federal funding, subject to annual congressional appropriations. The first grant agreement is for construction of the segment of the light rail project from N.E. 45th St. in the University District to S. Lander St. in the Duwamish industrial area.

June 2001 The Sound Transit Board directs staff to study an initial light rail segment

The initial Central Link segment could run from downtown Seattle to perhaps as far south as South 200th Street in SeaTac. By early fall, the Board will likely decide about building the initial segment.

Nov 2001 Sound Transit Board officially agrees to start light rail initial segment

On Nov. 29, the Sound Transit Board officially agreed to the construction of a 14-mile light rail initial segment from downtown Seattle to nearly the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. Construction is scheduled to begin in 2002 and be completed in 2009.

Feb 2002 Overlake Transit Center opens

Buses began running from the Overlake Transit Center at NE 40th Street in Redmond. The center was designed for fast, convenient transfers and to provide better connections and more frequent service from one centralized location. ST Express regional buses also began running from the new Everett Station.

Jun 2002 Tunnel agreement signed

Sound Transit, King County and the City of Seattle approved an agreement that defines the terms and conditions for the joint operation of trains and buses in the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel.

Jan 2003 Agreement reached on Central Link light rail's connection to the airport

Sound Transit and the Port of Seattle announced that they had reached an agreement in principle
on how Central Link light rail would connect to the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. The agreement identifies a shared conceptual vision for a light rail station next to the airport's existing terminal and parking garage, integrated within the Port's updated plans for expanding the airport.

Feb 2003 King County Court rules I-776 unconstitutional

King County Superior Court Judge Mary Yu issued a ruling that I-776, a statewide initiative that sought to repeal the agency's locally approved motor vehicle excise tax, is invalid under the Washington State Constitution.

Aug 2003 Tacoma Link begins service

The 1.6-mile Tacoma Link light rail line begins carrying passengers. The Tacoma Link line is the first modern light rail system in the state and is built on time and under budget.

Oct 2003 Link receives $500 million federal grant

The Federal Transit Administration officially signs a $500 million Federal Full Funding Grant Agreement for construction of the Central Link initial segment.

Oct 2003 State Supreme Court rules I-776 is constitutional

The Supreme Court overturns a lower court ruling and says that the Motor Vehicle Excise Tax initiative is constitutional.

Nov 2003 Link groundbreaking

Dignitaries and leaders from throughout the region, including U.S. Senator Patty Murray, celebrate the groundbreaking for the construction of the Central Link light rail initial segment.

Dec 2003 Sounder reaches Everett

Sounder trains begin regular commuter service between Everett, Edmonds, and Seattle on Dec. 21. The service starts with one train in the morning and one in the evening.