Sound Transit unveils first Central Link light rail vehicle

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Central Puget Sound commuters got a glimpse of the light rail future today as Sound Transit rolled out the region’s first Central Link light rail vehicle.

“Beginning in 2009, these beautiful light rail trains will offer a fast and reliable alternative to sitting in traffic between downtown Seattle and the airport,” said Sound Transit Board Chair and Pierce County Executive John Ladenburg. “This is the perfect time for people to see how close we are to delivering this critical piece of the transit system as we put the final touches on a major Sound Transit 2 package to expand it.”

“More than 45,000 daily riders will make Link light rail part of their regular commute,” said Sound Transit Boardmember and Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels. “Light rail is the LINK that ties our regional system together. With the recent federal approval to finalize the design for expanding light rail to the University of Washington, our transit future looks bright and it sets the stage for the next phase of developing the entire transit network.”

Link light rail construction is on schedule and heading for opening day in 2009, providing riders with a fast 36-minute trip between SeaTac Airport and Westlake Station in Seattle.

Sound Transit will soon begin testing the new Kinkisharyo/Mitsui light rail vehicles and the system in the SoDo area near the light rail Operations & Maintenance base. Thirty-five light rail cars will make up the initial fleet.

Light rail is fast, frequent and reliable. It will operate free of delays from congestion and weather. Trains will run every few minutes, 20 hours a day. The projected 2020 daily ridership for the 15.6-mile light rail segment that is currently under construction between downtown Seattle and the airport is 45,000. The University Link project alone will likely increase the regional light rail system’s 2030 ridership to more than 114,000 a day.

The light rail fleet will grow in the future as Sound Transit works to extend the system. In fact, Sound Transit is currently working to start building light rail from Downtown Seattle to the University District as soon as 2008 with existing local taxes and a $750 million federal grant. The project has received the highest-possible ranking in the FTA’s competitive New Starts program based on its major public benefits, including the exceptional ridership projections.

Further light rail extensions to the north, east and south are proposed for part of the November 2007 regional Roads & Transit ballot measure. Following more than two years of public input, the Sound Transit Board is working to identify the transit package that will be part of the measure and may include more than 40 miles of light rail extensions.  These potential extensions include lines north from the University of Washington to Lynnwood, south from SeaTac to the Port of Tacoma area and east to Overlake Transit Center, via downtown Bellevue. In February Sound Transit will launch a final round of public meetings throughout the region to seek input on the draft package.


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


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