Sound Transit and Port of Seattle break ground on Airport Link light rail and airport roadway improvements

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U.S.  Sen. Patty Murray joined Sound Transit and Port of Seattle officials today to break ground on extending light rail directly to Seattle-Tacoma International Airport and building major airport roadway improvements. 

"Extending light rail service to the airport will give travelers fast and reliable service to and from downtown Seattle," said Senator Murray. "Sound Transit Link light rail projects are helping connect communities, reduce congestion, increase mobility, and grow our economy. I am proud to have been able to help fund their vision for the future. Today's achievement is another example of how working together we can improve our transportation infrastructure and keep Washington state strong and competitive well into the future." 

“Excitement is building right along with the light rail track,” said Sound Transit Board Chair and Pierce County Executive John Ladenburg. “People have been waiting for this. Our partnership with the Port will deliver fast and reliable mass transit and expanded airport road capacity at the same time. This is exactly what our region needs to fight gridlock.” 

“We’ve spent the last few years rebuilding Sea-Tac on the inside, and we have a lot to show for that,” said Port of Seattle Commissioner Bob Edwards. “We have a beautiful, light-filled, exciting place to begin or end a journey. But now it’s time to get started on the outside, working with Sound Transit and the City of SeaTac to bring light rail, new roadways, and better access to this already much-improved airport.”

The designs and construction plans for the 1.7-mile light rail extension and the road improvements are fully integrated, with construction divided into three major civil construction contracts.  

The SeaTac/Airport light rail station will be built adjacent to the existing airport parking garage, with an elevated walkway connecting the station to the fourth level of the garage. Another elevated walkway will cross International Boulevard, connecting light rail passengers with the SeaTac City Center and a passenger pick-up and drop-off area.  Sound Transit and the Port of Seattle have worked closely with the City of Sea Tac on a cost- effective approach that supports the City of Sea Tac’s City Center plans. 

The airport roadway improvements include building a significantly longer return-to-terminal loop that will fulfill the major long-term need for increased airport vehicle capacity. The existing return to terminal ramps at the north end of the parking garage will be taken out to make room for the light rail station and replaced with a new interchange. North of the airport, the northbound lanes of the airport expressway will be moved to the east so that light rail tracks can be built in the expressway median. 

During the construction period the Port of Seattle and Sound Transit will work to minimize impacts on airport travelers. Travelers will need to allow more time to drive to and from the airport and will need to pay close attention to roadway signage. Different routes and detours will be in place during different phases of the construction.  

The first construction contract to get underway, which includes the majority of the airport roadway work, was awarded to Mowat Construction. The most northerly Airport Link segment, which is primarily elevated, will be built by PCL Construction Services, which is currently building the Tukwila segment of the light rail project. The third contract, for construction of the airport light rail station, will go out for bid this fall. 

When light rail trains start running in 2009 they will arrive and depart up to every 6 minutes during peak hours and every 10 minutes during off-peak hours. Travel time between the Airport Station and the heart of Downtown Seattle will be 34 minutes, no matter how bad congestion gets as the region’s population grows by an estimated 1.2 million between now and 2030. Airport Link will open in December 2009, only several months after light rail starts running between Downtown Seattle and Tukwila in Summer 2009. During the several months before Sound Transit opens direct service to the airport free shuttle buses will carry light rail riders between Tukwila and the terminal. 

The Port of Seattle operates Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, the Pacific Northwest's largest international airport. More than 127,000 local jobs depend on the airport, which generates $9.6 billion in overall business revenue and $415 million in state and local taxes. 

Sound Transit estimates that in 2020 approximately 3,000 riders will use the airport station each day. Ridership will grow as the light rail system expands. Currently, Sound Transit is working with the Regional Transportation Investment District (RTID) on an integrated Roads & Transit package with projects throughout the region that will go to voters in November 2007. Proposed light rail elements include extending the 15.6-mile segment that opens in 2009 as far north as Lynnwood, as far east as Downtown Redmond and as far south as the Port of Tacoma area. Sound Transit and RTID are currently holding meetings around the region to provide information and gather public input on possible projects. For more information please visit our ST2 Web site.

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