Sound Transit Board approves plan for University light rail extension

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The Sound Transit Board this afternoon approved a plan for extending light rail to the University of Washington with existing taxes and a $700 million federal grant that Sound Transit is seeking.

"We want to start building the University Link in 2008," said Sound Transit Board Chair and Pierce County Executive John Ladenburg. "It will increase the light rail system's ridership from 45,000 a day to more than 114,000. That's why the Federal Transit Administration has given the project its highest-possible ranking and why we're in a strong position to compete for the federal funding we need."

The University Link project connects the three largest urban centers in the region: Downtown Seattle, Capitol Hill and the University District. The project will offer much faster travel times for transit passengers than buses. Light rail will carry passengers from Downtown Seattle to the University District in nine minutes instead of 25 and to Capitol Hill in six minutes instead of 14. Trips between Capitol Hill and the University District will take three minutes instead of 22. Riders will enjoy reliable service no matter how bad the weather or traffic congestion.

The Sound Transit Board today also adopted a final North Link route extending from Downtown Seattle to Northgate. The $1.5 billion University Link project, a subset of North Link, extends 3.15 miles north from Downtown to the University of Washington campus via tunnel. The rest of North Link is envisioned to be included in a regionwide transit and roads ballot measure that will be submitted to voters in 2007.

Today's Board action was preceded earlier this month by the publication of the Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement for the North Link light rail project. In addition to the University Link stations, the 7.4-mile North Link route also includes three more stations: an underground station serving the University District commercial area and the northern University campus; an underground station serving the Roosevelt area; and an elevated station serving Northgate. More on North Link>>

Two weeks ago the Sound Transit Board finalized an agreement with the Port of Seattle for extending the Central Link light rail line that is now under construction to provide direct service to Sea-Tac International Airport by December 2009.

"When University Link is completed, almost 19 miles of light rail between the University and the airport will have been built with existing taxes," Ladenburg said.

Construction of the 1.7-mile Airport Link extension will begin this summer. Central Link construction is now more than 40 percent complete, and the project is currently tracking about $200 million under budget. The 1.6-mile Tacoma Link light rail line opened in 2003, with ridership immediately exceeding our 2010 projections.


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