Sound Transit finalizes Sounder commuter rail agreement with BNSF - Seattle-to-Everett service starts December 21

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Sound Transit Board Chair and King County Executive Ron Sims today announced that final agreements have been reached with the Burlington Northern & Santa Fe Railway Company (BNSF) for extending Sounder commuter rail service between Everett and Seattle and between Tacoma and Lakewood.

The Sound Transit Board convened in a special meeting today, approving eight agreements for extending Sounder service. Among the highlights:

Seattle-Everett Sounder service will begin with a special train serving the Seattle Seahawks' Sunday, Dec. 21 home game. On Sunday morning Sound Transit will distribute 500 tickets in conjunction with a public celebration at Everett Station featuring food and entertainment. The news media's help in informing the public about the special Seahawks train, service launch and the public celebration is appreciated! Please see the below information.

Regular commuter service to Snohomish County will begin on Monday, Dec. 22. Following the scenic Puget Sound shoreline, the service will initially include one round trip each weekday from Everett to Seattle and back with stops in Edmonds. The service will be offered free of charge through Jan. 2, 2004 to promote ridership.

Extending Sounder service to Lakewood will be enabled by Sound Transit's purchase of 21 miles of track. Lakewood service is scheduled to begin in late 2007 following the completion of necessary track and signal improvements.

The agreements with BNSF permanently enable commuter rail trains to travel on existing tracks from Seattle to Everett and Tacoma to Lakewood. In the Seattle-Everett corridor, the agreements provide for access to the tracks during specific hours of the day in perpetuity - an improvement over the 97-year term of a preliminary agreement announced last spring. And Sound Transit's full ownership of 21 miles of track between Tacoma and the Thurston County line (at the Nisqually River) will give the public full control of the segment's future.

"I cannot emphasize enough the importance of these agreements," said Sims. "Not only have we purchased an important right-of-way from Tacoma to Thurston County, we will have access to the Seattle-to-Everett tracks forever."

"This agreement permanently guarantees that Snohomish County commuters the choice of leaving behind their cars and the I-5 corridor's growing congestion," said Sound Transit Board Member and Snohomish County Executive Bob Drewel. "Beginning a mere four days from now, these agreements will change the lives of generations of Snohomish County `residents."

Drewel noted that the track and signal improvements resulting from the agreements will increase capacity for both passengers and freight, further enhancing the region's economic competitiveness.

"Commuter rail service was one of Snohomish County's top priorities for the Sound Move plan approved by the region's voters, and today we're delivering it," said Sound Transit Board Vice Chair and Edmonds City Council Member Dave Earling. "Sunday's train ride will be the happiest of my life."

"Now we can move forward on delivering Sounder commuter rail service directly to the people of Lakewood," said Sound Transit Board Member and Lakewood City Council Member Claudia Thomas. "The public's full ownership of the tracks opens the future possibility of extending service to Dupont and other points to the south."

In the north, Sound Transit will eventually run four round-trips a day from Everett to Seattle, with future trains to be implemented over time. It is projected that the second train will start in the fourth quarter of 2005; the third and fourth trains will start in the fourth quarter of 2007. Service to Mukilteo will be added when track improvements are completed, allowing for a permanent station to be built. Mukilteo service is scheduled to begin in the fourth quarter of 2007.

Sound Transit will pay BNSF a total of $258 million over four years for easements to operate trains on the segment between Seattle and Everett and $32 million to purchase the Tacoma-to-Nisqually section of track.

Sounder service began September 2000 and currently serves about 15,000 passengers per week with three round-trips each weekday between Tacoma and Seattle.

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