We know the past couple of weeks haven’t been easy for our Link riders with our planned service disruption. Yesterday morning in particular was extra tough, when a problem with the emergency fans at Westlake station forced us to close the station as a safety precaution. That made already difficult travel even more difficult.
We owe our passengers a big thank you for your patience yesterday and throughout the entire disruption. You have been terrific in adjusting to the changes and keeping your cool.
As we’ve said before, we wouldn’t be having this disruption if the work we needed to do wasn’t absolutely necessary. We wanted to update you on the work and its progress.
We’re undertaking two big construction projects at the same time at the downtown stations.
As a reminder, our four downtown Seattle stations — Westlake, University Street, Pioneer Square, and Int’l Dist./Chinatown — are nearly 20 years older than the Link system itself. They opened for bus operations in 1990, and they were built to accommodate both buses and trains at the same time.
The first major project we’re working on is replacing 500 feet of northbound track between University Street and Westlake at the sharpest curve in the entire Link system. If you’re a regular rider, you probably noticed how bumpy the ride was along that section of the track. That’s because the rails are worn. If they weren’t replaced, they would eventually become a safety hazard.
Replacing track in the tunnel is a bigger deal than it is on a regular railbed. The track is embedded in concrete since the tunnel was originally shared with buses. We have to jackhammer the concrete and remove the old track, which is a noisy and dusty process.
Plus, since we’re working in a tunnel, we can’t bring in long lengths of track. We’re bringing in shorter sections, called sticks, and welding them together in an exothermic process. We then have to embed the new rail in concrete. It’s a labor-intensive process.
The other major project we’re working on is replacing the 58 bond boxes in the tunnel. The bond boxes, which are located between the tracks, provide the signal connections to the tracks. These bond boxes were progressively damaged by buses between 2007 and 2019, leading to occasional signal failures, which in turn leads to train delays.
As you can tell from the photo, working on the bond boxes essentially means working in a hole in the floor of the tunnel. It’s time consuming work in a tight space.
We’re not only replacing the bond boxes themselves but also replacing the welded track circuit connections with a more reliable mechanical connection.
While these are the two biggest projects we’re working on, they aren’t the only ones. We’re taking advantage of this service interruption to do five other projects as well, including repairing some sections of southbound rail and cleaning art work. Doing these projects during this service interruption means we can get them done sooner than we had planned.
The good news for riders is that the work has been going well, and we are on time to resume regular service on Feb. 4 as planned. We’re well past the half way mark at this point, so please be patient just a little while longer. When we’re done, you’ll be able to enjoy a smoother ride and a more reliable system.
If this is the first time you're hearing about this service disruption, here are some blog posts to get you caught up!