Sound Transit and UW announce agreement for University Link light rail expansion

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Sound Transit and the University of Washington today announced a proposed agreement to extend light rail to the UW's Seattle campus and the surrounding area. The agreement frames the details of a strong partnership between Sound Transit and the University and clears a major hurdle for securing a $750 million federal grant needed to start building the extension as soon as late 2008.

"This agreement marks a major step forward for the Link light rail system, the University community, and the transportation needs of our region," said Senator Patty Murray, chair of the Senate Transportation Appropriations Subcommittee. "The partnership between Sound Transit and the University of Washington moves us toward bringing the light rail network to the doorstep of yet another community in our city."

The Federal Transit Administration has given the University Link project its highest-possible ranking in the FTA’s competitive New Starts program based on its major public benefits.

University Link will add an estimated 70,000 riders a day to the Link light rail line between downtown Seattle and Sea-Tac International Airport that is now about 70 percent complete and on schedule to open in 2009.

On Thursday the proposed agreement will go to the University of Washington Board of Regents and the Sound Transit Finance Committee. The full Sound Transit Board will consider the agreement on June 14.

The $1.6 billion University Link project would be funded by the federal grant and existing local tax dollars. Fifty miles of further light rail expansions are proposed as part of the Roads & Transit ballot measure that will go to voters in November 2007, including service to Northgate, Shoreline, Mountlake Terrace, Lynnwood, Alderwood, 164th Street/Ash Way, Mercer Island, Bellevue, Redmond, Des Moines, Federal Way, Fife and Tacoma.

“The University of Washington represents one of the region’s most important destinations and acts as a major catalyst for the regional economy,” said Sound Transit CEO Joni Earl. “We thank the University for its strong partnership in bringing light rail service to the campus as soon as possible and Senator Murray for her continued leadership in the other Washington to help improve transportation in central Puget Sound.”

“This agreement is critically important to the UW. It marks the beginning of a new era in transportation for the entire region. We are very pleased to be part of this partnership,”said UW President Mark Emmert.


Elements of the proposed agreement include:

  • Establishes an interim terminus for Link light rail at the University of Washington Station located near Husky Stadium and the UW Medical Center.
  • Supports Sound Transit’s construction plans for tunneling operations running south from UW to Capitol Hill.
  • Identifies at least two public entrances to the underground University of Washington Station with at least one entrance located north of Northeast Pacific Place and the Burke Gilman Trail.
  • Sets construction timelines for work on the campus not to exceed 66 months.
    Sets specific monitoring measures for magnetic field and vibration thresholds to protect UW research facilities during light rail operations.
  • Provides $20 million to the UW for property to be used for current and future Link light rail construction and operations easements.
  • Provides $10 million to the UW for the permanent loss of up to 100 parking spaces at Husky Stadium and the temporary use of approximately 600 parking stalls for construction staging.
  • Provides $5.2 million to UW for its design review and approval, potential relocation plans, construction coordination and participation in the review and approval of light rail operating plans.


Last fall the FTA granted Sound Transit authorization to enter into final design on University Link – which enabled the agency to begin negotiations with the FTA as part of the agency’s efforts to secure a $750 million federal grant for project. Reaching a formal agreement with the UW for construction and service to the area is a requirement toward the grant.

The University Link project connects the three largest urban centers in the region: downtown Seattle, Capitol Hill and the University District. The project will offer much faster travel times for transit passengers than buses. Light rail will carry passengers from downtown to the University in 9 minutes instead of 25 and to Capitol Hill in 6 minutes instead of 14. Trips between Capitol Hill and the University District will take 3 minutes instead of 22. Riders will enjoy reliable service no matter how bad the weather or traffic congestion.


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Sound Transit’s regional network of express buses, commuter rail, light rail and transit facilities connects communities in King, Pierce and Snohomish counties.