Sound Transit takes step toward expanding North Sounder service
Sound Transit has reached a major milestone to provide more commuter rail service between Everett and Seattle. According to Sound Transit's agreement with the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway (BNSF), the agency has acquired the track and signal improvement permits necessary to run a second Sounder commuter rail train.
With the permits from the U.S. Corps of Engineers and the state Department of Ecology in hand, BNSF can move forward with the track and signal upgrades and Sound Transit can add a second Sounder run by the third quarter of 2005. These permits are for work within the Seattle city limits.
"Obtaining the permits and approvals brings us closer to delivering expanded Sounder service to Snohomish County and providing still more options for commuters," said Sound Transit Board Chair and Pierce County Executive John Ladenburg. "Thanks to our strong partnership with BNSF we have a clear path to adding the second of what will be four daily Sounder round trips between Everett and Seattle with a stop in Edmonds and eventually Mukilteo."
Sound Transit's agreement with BNSF allows the agency to run four round trips a day between Seattle and Everett by the end of 2007, assuming acquisition of additional shoreline permits by the end of 2005. The next round of permits, which will clear the way for the third and fourth trains, deals with the corridor between Seattle and Everett and within the city of Everett.
The first Sounder north train began service Dec. 21, 2003 with special Seahawks Service. Commuter service began the next day and is currently serving about 300 riders per weekday. Earlier this year, to expand options for commuters, Sound Transit reached agreement with Amtrak to create the "RailPlus" program. Under "RailPlus" PugetPass, FlexPass and UPass cards will be valid on select Amtrak Cascades trains. Additionally, any valid Amtrak Cascade ticket will be good aboard Sound Transit's Sounder trains between Everett, Edmonds and Seattle's King Street Station. Sound Transit also provides very popular special event service for Seattle Mariners and Seahawks games.
The Sounder service has been extremely popular with riders. In fact, some time Wednesday, Sounder's three-millionth rider (since service began between Seattle and Tacoma in September 2000) will board a train. A recent survey showed 99 percent of Sounder north riders would recommend the service to others. With recent studies showing traffic congestion along I-5 north of Seattle significantly worsening over the next 25 years, adding more Sounder service will provide Snohomish County commuters with a vital option for getting to and from Seattle.
# # #
Sound Transit plans, builds and operates regional transit systems and services to improve mobility for Central Puget Sound.