Light rail reaches Seattle’s Capitol Hill, University of Washington

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Sound Transit prepares to welcome the public at Saturday opening festivities

Tomorrow at 10 a.m. some of the state’s most congested areas will begin a new era of mobility as Sound Transit opens the University Link light rail extension, with eight-minute rides between UW and downtown Seattle.

The University Link project is opening six months ahead of schedule and about $200 million under its $1.9 billion budget. The project’s success was supported by strong collaboration with the federal government and partners including the City of Seattle and University of Washington and the Washington State Department of Transportation.

“Today, we celebrate an historic achievement – delivering new high-capacity light rail that will transform transportation in our region for the next century,” said Sound Transit Board Chair and King County Executive Dow Constantine. “Thousands of commuters will now be able to get to their destination on time, every time, even as our population grows. Thanks to support from U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, our representatives in Congress, our staff at Sound Transit and, most importantly, local voters, we are creating the reliable mass-transit system our region needs.”

The Federal Transit Administration provided $829 million in grants to the new line. University Link connects with the existing light rail line between SeaTac and downtown Seattle on which ridership has grown in double-digit percentages every year since its 2009 opening. That line received $500 million in federal grants.

“The Obama Administration is proud to support the enhanced access to jobs, education, and opportunity that University Link will bring to residents of Seattle and the entire Puget Sound region,” said U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “Seattle’s commitment to an effective and connected transportation network will be the key to its success as the region’s economy and population continues to grow.”

U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-WA, championed the project as a senior member of the Senate Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Appropriations Subcommittee.

“A strong, safe, and efficient public transportation system is critical to meeting the demands of a 21st century economy. The U Link extension is the kind of investment our nation needs – the kind that will connect our communities, support jobs, and ease congestion,” Sen. Murray said. “So I am proud to be a partner in this project – by breaking through the partisanship and gridlock over in the other Washington to secure federal funding to support this project and help move it over the finish line.”

The City of Seattle played a major role in developing the project and land use planning around the stations.

“This is a transformational moment for Seattle,” said Sound Transit Board member and Seattle Mayor Ed Murray. “Not only will it change how we get around, it will change how we think about how we get around. Today we are celebrating the accomplishment of transit advocates of a generation ago who developed a shared vision and all of us who worked steadily to achieve it.”

A major portion of the federal funding for the project came from an $813 million grant from the Federal Transit Administration.

“The University Link extension will bring fast, reliable rail service to Capitol Hill and the University of Washington – two of the Seattle area’s major centers of employment and education,” said FTA Acting Administrator Therese McMillan. “This project exemplifies public transportation’s ability to connect real people to real opportunities.”

For detailed opening weekend event offerings and information on regular service see below and www.ulink2016.org.

More than 5,000 union workers affiliated with the Washington State and Seattle/King County Building and Construction Trades Council and affiliated unions of the Northwest Construction Alliance put in more than three million work hours building University Link. Their hard work with a long list of contractors, consultants and partners made the project a success.

The University Link extension is estimated to nearly double weekday ridership on the existing light rail line to more than 70,000 riders on weekdays by 2020.