Sound Transit details plans to open light rail line six to nine months early

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University Link now on track to open in first quarter of 2016

Sound Transit will open the University Link light rail extension between January and March of 2016 - six months earlier than previously scheduled - under plans detailed at a news conference today with U.S. Sen. Patty Murray.  

"Every new light rail station helps commuters, businesses, and local communities, but this station is particularly important, because it will strengthen the connection between our entire region and one of our most cherished institutions, the University of Washington," said Senator Murray.  "I'm thrilled that Sound Transit, the University of Washington, and the City of Seattle have been able to work together and build this station ahead of schedule, because this expansion will benefit our region for generations to come."  

"The University Link project will carry the highest passenger volumes of the 50-mile regional system that Sound Transit is building," said Sound Transit Board Chair and Pierce County Executive Pat McCarthy. "We are pleased that we will open the project sooner than we had planned, and at considerably lower cost to the region's taxpayers."  

The $1.95 billion project was made possible by more than $830 million in federal funding, including a $813 million full funding grant agreement that Sen. Murray helped secure. It was previously scheduled to open in September, 2016.  

University Link is currently 79 percent complete and trending more than $100 million under budget. The mining phases that posed the biggest risks to the project schedule are complete. Contractors are currently installing rail in the twin tunnels and continuing construction at the two new stations on Capitol Hill and at UW.  

The University of Washington Station is about 80 percent complete and the Capitol Hill Station is about 25 percent complete. Opening early will require continued close coordination among the contractors building the stations and the follow-on systems contractors installing the power, communications and fire/life/safety systems necessary to operate the system.   

Staff will report back to the Board of Directors in late 2014 or early 2015 with a specific opening day for commuters to mark on their calendars.  

University Link will provide a reliable option for drivers and transit users who are stuck on Interstate 5, a facility that operates over capacity for up to eight hours a day, with vehicle speeds running between 15 and 35 mph. Already, buses can run up to 30 minutes behind schedule due to congestion.  

A trip from UW to downtown will take about six minutes regardless of traffic conditions.