View looking south at the East Link light rail guideway from the future South Bellevue Station.

East Link light rail line already transforming Eastside skyline

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Our latest photo update on progress building new light rail lines connecting the region takes us to the East Link extension – 14 miles of new light rail with ten stations connecting Seattle, Mercer Island, Bellevue and the Bel-Red and Overlake neighborhoods (Microsoft headquarters).

East Link Extension route map.

East Link construction started in 2016 and is scheduled to open in 2023 providing a 24-minute trip between downtown Bellevue and Westlake Station in downtown Seattle. Trips from the Judkins Park Station in Seattle's Central District to downtown Bellevue will take just 15 minutes, no matter how bad traffic is.

So far more than 2.1 million labor hours have gone into building the new line and its stations. By “labor hours” we mean the amount of time that women and men from the local Laborers, Carpenters, Ironworkers, Operators, Electricians and other specialty trades have worked on the job sites stretching from Seattle to Overlake.

Here’s a glimpse of them at work and what they’ve accomplished so far.

Stay up to speed on the latest East Link progress by joining our new East Link Facebook Group where we’ll keep the pictures flowing and our construction outreach folks will be ready to answer your questions.

Mercer Island - you've got rail!

Workers installing rail on Mercer Island as part of the East Link light rail extension
Workers place East Link rail onto the new concrete railroad ties on Mercer Island.

Contractors have delivered a portion of the rail and concrete ties that East Link trains will use between Seattle and the east side of Mercer Island. 

You can see the rail installation work as you pass over the island on I-90 – the view is especially good from the Sound Transit Express bus routes 550 and 554 as it passes by.

Workers installing rail on Mercer Island as part of the East Link light rail extension
New East Link rail is placed on the new concrete ties in the center lanes of I-90 on Mercer Island.

Yes, it will be leveled and straightened in the months ahead.

South Bellevue and downtown Bellevue

Heading east from Mercer Island, the columns for the light rail guideway are in place. Contractors are building the bridges connecting the columns using a special “traveler” form that allows the bridge sections to essentially be made on site above the roadway.

Check here for more information, including a video animation, about how the guideway bridges over I-90 will be built. 

A view of the "traveler" atop one of the East Link columns as it builds a new bridge over the I-90 roadway.
A look at the "traveler" on top of a guideway column where a new light rail bridge is being built over I-90.
Looking east from the top of a light rail column where the guideway will lead into South Bellevue.
The view from the top of a guideway column heading east from Mercer Island into South Bellevue.
An aerial view of the future South Bellevue East Link Station under construction
The aerial view of the future South Bellevue Station that will include parking for up to 1,500 vehicles.
The view looking south from the South Bellevue East Link light rail platform.
Looking south from the platform at the South Bellevue Station. Note the columns where the train guideway will rise above traffic on Bellevue Way Southeast.

 

Columns and the elevated guideway rise above South Bellevue Way leading into the South Bellevue East Link light rail station.
The ground-level view of the columns and guideway leading into the South Bellevue East Link light rail station.

 

Looking at the new parking garage under construction at the future South Bellevue East Link Station.
Contractors at work on the third level of the new parking garage at South Bellevue Station.
The East Link guideway takes shape above South Bellevue
Rare November sun lights up the guideway looking south from the South Bellevue East Link light rail station.

Downtown Bellevue

A look inside the downtown Bellevue tunnel where contractors are spraying concrete on the tunnel walls.

Moving further north, contractors are busy finishing the inside of the light rail tunnel under downtown Bellevue.

Mining operations wrapped up in the 1,800 foot tunnel last summer.

Above you can see the concrete being applied to the tunnel walls and floor.

When complete, the tunnel will have two sets of tracks (one for northbound, one for southbound trains) with a wall running down the middle.

Check out our previous stories about mining the downtown Bellevue Tunnel.

A look at the new East Link bridge crossing I-405 from downtown Bellevue.
The view looking east from Bellevue City Hall where you can see new light rail bridge crossing Interstate 405 as the tracks head to the Bel-Red and Overlake areas.
A look back at downtown Bellevue from the new East Link bridge over I-405.
Looking west at downtown Bellevue from the new East Link bridge over I-405.
Crews busy inside the bridge over I-405 placing wood forms against the rebar cages waiting to be filled with concrete.
Crews busy inside the bridge over I-405 placing wood forms against the steel rebar cages waiting to be filled with concrete.
Another view of the work area on the new East Link light rail bridge over I-405.
Another view of the work area on the new East Link light rail bridge over I-405 looking west to downtown Bellevue.
An aerial view of the new East Link light rail bridge crossing I-405 from downtown Bellevue.
An aerial view of the new East Link light rail bridge crossing I-405 from downtown Bellevue.

Bel-Red and Overlake areas

While the main activities might not be as dramatic as new bridges, flying travelers and fresh rail installation, contractors are making good progress on the elevated guideway and below ground utility work in the Bel-Red and Overlake areas.

More new girders like the ones pictured below are going up every day along the route and contractors are making good progress on the foundations for a new pedestrian bridge over State Route 520 at the Overlake Village Station.

New girders to support the East Link light rail guideway in the Bel-Red area of Bellevue.
New girders to support the East Link rail guideway are going up throughout the Bel-Red area of Bellevue stretching to the Microsoft campus.

For more information about East Link check out the project web page, sign up for project alerts and join the new East Link Facebook Group for the latest construction news.

Our friendly East Link Outreach staff will keep an eye on the group and stand ready to answer your questions about all things East Link!