East Link construction reaches 50-percent completion milestone

Project on track for 2023 launch of Blue Line, offering fast, reliable rides between Redmond and Northgate

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Just a few years after crews began building the 14-mile East Link light rail extension, work on the project is more than half-complete. Sound Transit today briefed media on the project's achievements to date and upcoming milestones.

"East Link will connect people throughout the Eastside to employment centers in Redmond and Bellevue, providing them many more options in where they choose to live and work," said Sound Transit Board chair and Redmond Mayor John Marchione. "I am excited to see the rapid progress being made on this vital transit option for our growing region."

"For those of us who live or work on the Eastside, it's been exciting watching light rail grow so visibly. Reaching this 50-percent milestone is a testament to the great partnerships with the cities of Mercer Island, Bellevue and Redmond," said Sound Transit Board member, chair of the board's System Expansion Committee, and King County Council member Claudia Balducci. "In just a few short years, this system will give our neighbors, friends and visitors the transportation freedom to get around easily and affordably on light rail."

"The opening of the Blue Line will transform commuting for thousands of residents on both sides of Lake Washington," said Sound Transit CEO Peter Rogoff. "People will trade unpredictable and ever-slower commutes for fast, reliable service no matter how bad the traffic or weather. We thank our outstanding project staff and contractors for their rapid progress."

At the 50-percent mark, Sound Transit contractor crews have:

  • Constructed 2.86 miles of elevated guideway;
  • Excavated a tunnel under downtown Bellevue;
  • Built a bridge over I-405;
  • Installed almost a mile of track and nearly completed a station on Mercer Island;
  • Strengthened the I-90 floating bridge through a process known as post-tensioning;
  • Taken down the Rainier Avenue bridge in Seattle to make way for the future Judkins Park station;
  • Constructed the first half of the long-span bridge across I-90 using a specialized "traveler" crane;
  • Started early, pre-construction work at the International District Station to prepare for Connect 2020—the construction in early 2020 that will tie in East Link through the existing transit tunnel in downtown Seattle. 

2019 construction achievements will include: 

  • Finalizing preparations for Connect 2020, including extensive public awareness effort for the period of reduced Link service that will occur in early 2020.
  • Installing the I-90 track bridge that will enable Sound Transit light rail vehicles to cross the Homer M. Hadley floating bridge, a first anywhere in the world;
  • Continuing to build key parking facilities at the future South Bellevue, Bel-Red and Redmond Technology stations;
  • Progressing on construction of the 112th Street Southeast rail undercrossing;
  • Constructing a pedestrian bridge across SR-520 that will provide a direct connection from the future Overlake Village station to the SR 520 trail, the growing Bridle Trails neighborhood and Microsoft's southern campus;
  • Completing all of the alignment's elevated guideway;
  • Laying miles of track.

A video of highlights of East Link construction to date is at https://vimeo.com/328684042.

East Link will extend light rail 14 miles from downtown Seattle to Mercer Island, downtown Bellevue and the Overlake area of Redmond via I-90, with 10 stations. When it begins operating as the Blue Line in 2023, passengers will be able to travel from Mercer Island to the University of Washington in 20 minutes; from South Bellevue to Sea-Tac Airport in 50 minutes; and from Redmond Technology to Bellevue Downtown in 10 minutes.

Sound Transit is simultaneously working to extend light rail north, south, east and west, opening new stations every few years to form a 116-mile regional system by 2041. Northgate Link will open in 2021, followed by East Link in 2023. Additional extensions to Shoreline, Mountlake Terrace, Lynnwood, Kent/Des Moines, Federal Way and downtown Redmond are planned in 2024. Further light rail extensions are scheduled to reach West Seattle, Fife and Tacoma in 2030; Ballard in 2035; Paine Field and Everett in 2036; and South Kirkland and Issaquah in 2041.

The agency is also working on further investments including but not limited to expansions of Sounder South service and bus rapid transit service in 2024 along the north, east and south sides of Lake Washington. More information is available at https://www.soundtransit.org/system-expansion.