Sound Transit completes 14-plus miles of continuous light rail track

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Sound Transit officials today made the final connections joining more than 14 miles of continuous light rail tracks.                                         

“For the first time we have an unbroken stretch of light rail track from downtown Seattle to the Sea-Tac International Airport area,” said Sound Transit Board Chair and Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels as he led Board members in fastening the final track bolts. “We’re one major step closer to testing trains in Rainer Valley later this summer and running them all the way to Tukwila.”

Today’s connection finishes the track that southbound light rail trains will travel on between Westlake Station in downtown Seattle and Sea-Tac International Airport when the line opens in 2009. Crews will continue work on the northbound track and the last portion of track leading into Airport Station. 

Central Link light rail construction began in late 2003 and recently passed the 90 percent completion mark and remains on schedule to begin service between downtown Seattle and Sea-Tac International Airport in 2009.

Light rail trains began making test runs between Sound Transit’s Operations and Maintenance Facility in SODO and the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel last fall. With those rails now connected to the tracks running through Beacon Hill and into the Rainer Valley, light rail trains can stretch their test run further south through Rainier Valley all the way to Tukwila Station by the end of this summer.

More than 6.5 million work hours have gone into light rail construction since the project broke ground – work performed by union laborers, equipment operators, carpenters, ironworkers, masons, bricklayers, teamsters, electricians, plumbers and painters.

Each weekday Sound Transit carries more than 50,000 riders on ST Express regional buses, Sounder commuter rail and Tacoma Link light rail. That number will more than double by 2020 following start of Link light rail service between Downtown Seattle and the airport in 2009.

Expansion of Link light rail between downtown and the University of Washington is slated to begin this year and be completed in 2016. University Link is projected to nearly triple the regional light rail system’s ridership to more than 114,000 a day by 2030.

Voters will determine future growth of Sounder and other regional transit services through a future mass transit ballot measure. The Sound Transit Board is currently considering the priorities and timing for a future ballot measure to continue expanding the regional transit system with more Link light rail, Sounder commuter rail, and ST Express bus service. Sound Transit is seeking public input on system expansion options through a series of public meetings and web and phone questionnaires.  Please see www.soundtransit.org/future for more information.

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Sound Transit’s regional network of express buses, commuter rail, light rail and transit facilities connects communities in King, Pierce and Snohomish counties.