2016 will be a record year for expanding regional light rail service
Milestones include extending light rail north and south, launching East Link construction, completing Northgate tunnel mining, November ST3 ballot measure
Sound Transit Board Chair and King County Executive Dow Constantine today joined Peter Rogoff, the agency’s new CEO, to provide news media with a preview of the epic year that lies ahead for expanding regional light rail service.
In 2016 Sound Transit is poised to achieve milestones including:
- Opening light rail to the Capitol Hill and University of Washington areas in March and Angle Lake in September. Both projects are under budget and ahead of schedule
- Kicking off light rail construction to Mercer Island, Bellevue and Redmond in February
- Completing tunnel mining for the light rail extension to Northgate in late 2016
- Shaping a November 2016 Sound Transit 3 ballot measure
“In 2016 we will complete major light rail projects and present to voters a truly regional system that reaches Tacoma, Everett, Redmond, Ballard and West Seattle,” Constantine said. “It will be a landmark year of progress for our critical work to get commuters out of congestion.”
The news conference marked Rogoff’s first public event as Sound Transit CEO following his arrival last week. Previously Rogoff served as the nation’s top public transportation official and as an undersecretary in the U.S. Department of Transportation. Constantine emphasized that with Rogoff’s leadership the agency is well positioned to maintain is successful track record.
“My commitment as CEO is to keep building on Sound Transit’s national reputation for delivering an ambitious capital investment program and looking at how service should continue growing to support our commuters and economy,” Rogoff said. “In any region growing as fast as ours, the choices are to plan for growth or to be overwhelmed by it.”
2016 construction progress will keep Sound Transit on track to complete 34 miles of light rail in the next eight years, extending the regional system north to Lynnwood, east to Redmond and south to the Kent-Des Moines area. The milestones Constantine and Rogoff reviewed for the year include:
In February Sound Transit will kick off the long-awaited construction of the East Link light rail extension. The project remains on track for a 2023 opening that expands light rail service across Lake Washington to and from Mercer Island, Bellevue and Redmond’s Overlake area, including the Microsoft campus. The first major work will be a new tunnel under downtown Bellevue, enabled by a close partnership with the City of Bellevue. Crews are scheduled to start excavating it this summer following site preparation and other work. When East Link opens it will connect the biggest housing, research and employment centers in the state with fast, reliable service 20 hours a day.
In March we will begin serving passengers on the University Link subway line, opening new stations on Capitol Hill and at the University of Washington. The project will open ahead of schedule and more than $150 million under budget. The opening date will be announced soon. University Link will add a new level of speed and reliability, with eight-minute trips from UW to downtown, no matter what time of day.
Starting in March Sound Transit will also take steps to improve service on its system of ST Express regional buses by ordering 27 more buses. This includes 16 more of the new higher capacity double-deckers in addition to the five received this year. Those new buses will join our current fleet of about 280 buses in 2017. Also in March, Sound Transit will kick off service on the new ST Express Route 541 between Overlake and UW.
South 200th Link
In September Link trains will begin carrying passengers one station further south from Sea-Tac Airport to Angle Lake. This project is currently trending $40 million under budget. The Sound Transit Board accelerated this project to open the same year as University Link, four years earlier than envisioned in the Sound Transit 2 ballot measure.
Starting in September Sound Transit will launch another round trip each weekday on the popular Sounder commuter rail line between Lakewood, Tacoma and Seattle. Added will be a northbound mid-morning trip from Lakewood and a southbound mid-afternoon, non-peak trip back to Lakewood. Two more additional south line round trips funded by the Sound Transit 2 ballot measure will start rolling in 2017.
By late 2016 Sound Transit will complete tunnel mining for the Northgate Link extension. So far, Sound Transit has successfully completed 12 tunnel segments: four under Beacon Hill, four as part of University Link, one in downtown Seattle and three as part of Northgate Link. By the end of the year, three more segments will be completed. By summer Sound Transit will kick off construction of the elevated light rail station that will serve Northgate. The project remains on track to open in 2021.
ST3 plan goes to voters
In November, the year will culminate with a Sound Transit 3 ballot measure that responds to our region’s fast-growing population and rising demand for congestion-free transportation alternatives. In March the Sound Transit Board is scheduled to release a draft ballot measure for public input, with potential projects including but not limited to light rail expansions to Tacoma, Everett, downtown Redmond, Ballard and West Seattle.