Sound Transit Board achieves historic milestone by selecting route for central Link light rail

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The vision of a regional transit system in central Puget Sound is an historic step closer to reality with the Sound Transit Board's unanimous selection of the route and stations for the 21-mile central Link light rail system connecting the cities of Seattle, Tukwila and SeaTac. The route and stations approved by the board bring the light rail plan within its current budget of $1.86 billion. The Board also committed to pursue additional funding to extend the light rail line an additional three miles to the Roosevelt neighborhood and the Northgate Transit Center as part of the first phase of development. In a separate action, the board also directed Sound Transit staff to determine the feasibility of a new route option that was recently proposed by the City of Tukwila.

"This is a major milestone that is the culmination of a full decade of planning, discussion and community involvement," according to Sound Transit Board chair Paul Miller, a Tacoma city councilmember. "This is a great day for our region, but more importantly it is the start of a great future."

The final selection of the route and station locations follows the completion of a final environmental impact statement for the project that was jointly issued November 5 by Sound Transit and the Federal Transit Administration.

The light rail route adopted by the board includes:

University District to the downtown Seattle transit tunnel's Westlake Station:
From a station on the eastside of 15th N.E. at N.E. 45th, trains will travel in a tunnel under 15th Ave. N.E., Portage Bay, Capitol Hill and First Hill into the downtown Seattle transit tunnel. Stations will be located at N.E. 45th St. and Pacific St. in the University District; E. John St. on Capitol Hill and at E. Madison St. on First Hill. The board also voted to construct a point where trains can cross from one track to another under Broadway north of the Capitol Hill Station, but also committed to forming a partnership with the Capitol Hill community to address concerns about the additional construction impacts.

Westlake station in downtown Seattle transit tunnel to S. McClellan St.:
The new tunnel will connect into the existing downtown Seattle transit tunnel north of the existing Westlake Station, continuing through the tunnel and onto street level on the existing busway that runs south from the existing tunnel. At S. Forest St. in the North Duwamish area, the route turns east entering a tunnel under Beacon Hill. Stations include the current downtown Seattle transit tunnel stations at Westlake, University St., Pioneer Square and International District. New stations will be located at S. Lander St. and S. McClellan St. The board voted to defer construction of stations at Royal Brougham Way and under Beacon Hill until a later time. However, they declared the Beacon Hill Station a top priority for completion and made provisions to ensure that it can be constructed at a later date. The board also selected a site for a maintenance base south of S. Forest St. on property west of the Rainier Brewery building.

S. McClellan St. to Boeing Access Road (Rainier Valley):
From an elevated station at S. McClellan St. the route continues south at street level on Martin Luther King Jr. Way S.; elevated across I-5 to Boeing Access Road. Stations will be located at surface level at S. Edmunds St., S. Othello St., and S. Henderson St., and an elevated station will be built at Boeing Access Road. Construction of a station at S. Graham St. and a park-and-ride lot at Boeing Access Road were deferred.

The route will be elevated from Boeing Access Road and continuing along Pacific Highway S. (SR-99/Tukwila International Blvd.) passing over the Duwamish River and the SR-599 interchange area. It will then come to surface level in the median of SR-99 continuing south to the SeaTac city limits. A new station will be built at S. 144th St. In a separate resolution, the board committed to have further analysis done on a new route proposed by the City of Tukwila.

From surface level on SR-99 the route will become elevated near S. 154th St. crossing over SR-518, then continuing south along the west side of Washington Memorial Park north of the Sea-Tac International Airport terminal. It will continue southeast along the west side of Sea-Tac Airport's planned intermodal transportation center, then proceeding along the west side of International Boulevard (SR-99). The route will cross S. 188th St. on elevated structure, continuing south on the east side of 28th Ave S. to S. 200th St. Stations will be located at S. 154th St. (elevated with a surface park-and-ride facility), Sea-Tac Airport's planned North End Airport Terminal (NEAT) and S. 200th St. with a park-and-ride facility.

"The significance of this decision is that we are now in a position to sit down with the federal government and negotiate a commitment for the federal funding needed to build the project, " according to Sound Transit's government relations committee chair Dave Earling, an Edmonds city councilmember. "Our light rail system is one of the most highly ranked and competitive rail projects in the federal funding pipeline, and this decision only strengthens our position."

Earling and Miller will be part of a delegation leaving for Washington D.C. this weekend to begin working on securing federal funding for FY2001 along with King County Executive Ron Sims, Seattle Mayor Paul Schell, and representatives of business, labor and the environmental community.

Sound Transit is on track to implement a three-county region-wide transit system plan known as Sound Move. Approved by voters in 1996, Sound Move will be a seamless blend of three regional transportation systems. Along with Link light rail, Sound Move includes Sounder commuter rail, running 81 miles from Everett to Tacoma/Lakewood and Regional Express, a bus transit system that will connect the major metropolitan areas of Bellevue, Everett, Tacoma and Seattle with numerous cities and communities with 17 new, fast, limited-stop bus routes and numerous improvements to transit centers, park-and-ride lots and HOV lanes throughout the region.

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Sound Transit plans, builds and operates regional transit systems and services to improve mobility for Central Puget Sound.