Sound Transit Board selects route for extending light rail north

Publish Date

The Sound Transit Board today identified its preferred route for extending light rail north of Downtown Seattle.

 "With North Link, light rail really moves into high gear. The route we have identified for North Link will increase the daily ridership of the entire Central Link system to about 160,000, making it one of the most cost-effective new transportation systems in the nation," said Sound Transit Board Chair and Pierce County Executive John Ladenburg. "It will carry the equivalent of at least three lanes on I-5, making it a backbone of our regional transportation system."

The preferred alternative identified by the Board will connect downtown and Northgate via First Hill, Capitol Hill and the University District, creating a fast, high-capacity transportation solution that will serve the region for generations to come.

"The Puget Sound region's population density and congestion truly demand the modern mass transit system that Sound Transit is building," Ladenburg said. "The projected 42,500 daily ridership of the initial segment that's now under construction in South Seattle earned the project the Federal Transit Administration's highest possible rating. With more than 100,000 daily riders, North Link's benefits will be outstanding. Our flexibility to increase the frequency and length of Link trains will allow the benefits to continue growing over time."

Of the region's urban centers designated by the Puget Sound Regional Council, the North Link corridor will serve 56 percent of their population and 55 percent of their employment. Building North Link will help maintain the region's competitiveness by improving transportation reliability and travel times between these key destinations, with trains running primarily underground in a congestion-free right of way.

I-5 currently carries more than 250,000 vehicles and operates at or above capacity for eight hours every weekday. Current bus service in corridor North Link will serve is hampered by high demand and traffic congestion, with peak hour service regularly running as much as 30 minutes behind schedule.

"We clearly need new transportation capacity and a fast, reliable alternative to our worsening congestion," Ladenburg said. "The Central Link initial segment and North Link will provide it. Today's action reflects that our top priority is protecting the quality of life that makes this region one of the best places in the county."

North Link will provide riders with quick and dependable travel times. For example, travel times to downtown will be 16 minutes from Northgate, 12 minutes from the University District and six minutes from Capitol Hill.

"The route we identified today will enable Sound Transit to move forward with the engineering needed to take this project to the next level," Ladenburg said. "The Board is committed to moving forward with the additional steps that are needed to extend Link light rail as far as possible as quickly as possible."

 In selecting the route, Board members emphasized their choices will achieve high ridership, minimize construction risk and serve the University District while avoiding concerns about vibration and electromagnetic impacts undermining the University of Washington's role as a center of cutting-edge scientific research. In addition to the route's cost-effectiveness, it offers significantly reduced construction risks in comparison to other North Link routes.

Following today's action, Sound Transit staff will prepare a formal resolution on the preferred route for the Board's approval in May.

From Westlake Station in downtown Seattle — the northern terminus of the Central Link initial segment — the North Link line extends east to First Hill, running in a continuation of the existing Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel. From the underground station at First Hill, the line will continue north to a tunnel station serving Capitol Hill located beneath Nagle Place, one block east of Broadway Avenue.

The route continues north, crossing beneath the Lake Washington Ship Canal near the Montlake Bridge. A underground station located adjacent to Husky Stadium will provide access to the southern University of Washington campus and medical center. The line then follows a route proposed by the University, passing beneath the eastern edge of the main campus and curving west to reach an underground station in the area of Brooklyn Avenue and Northeast 45th Street. The route continues to a station in the Roosevelt neighborhood and a northern terminus station at Northgate, following either Eighth Avenue Northeast or 12th Avenue Northeast.  In addition, the Board narrowed options for a Montlake-area tunnel vent facility to a single site in the vicinity of the Hop-In Market.


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