Sound Transit's Sounder Commuter Rail Service headed for Everett and Lakewood
Sound Transit Board Chair/King County Executive Ron Sims today announced that, with the assistance of U.S Senator Patty Murray, Sound Transit has reached a preliminary agreement with The Burlington Northern & Santa Fe Railway Company (BNSF) to begin operating the popular Sounder Commuter Rail Service this year between Seattle and Everett.
The preliminary agreement also allows Sound Transit the option to purchase 21 miles of track from Tacoma to the Thurston County line, clearing the way for expansion of service along a 100-mile corridor between Everett and the Pierce-Thurston county line. Final details on both segments will be worked out over the next 90-120 days.
"I am proud to have brought people together to help solve an important transportation problem," said Senator Murray. "I commend both Sound Transit and the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway for working so hard to reach a solution that will have positive impacts on people's lives for years to come."
"This is a historic announcement," said Sims. "Sound Transit hits a another major milestone today and delivers a commitment made in Sound Move to extend service to Everett and Lakewood. In addition, it shows the region's commitment to real transportation solutions for people and business."
"This agreement now ensures Snohomish County commuters will have a new transit option in the congested I-5 corridor" said Sound Transit Boardmember/Snohomish County Executive Bob Drewel. "Not only will Sounder service to Everett begin this year, this agreement - through the year 2100 - is a public investment to secure passenger service for future generations."
"The track and signal improvements resulting from this agreement will increase capacity for both passenger and freight, further enhancing the economic competitiveness of the entire region," added Drewel. "As a result, companies like Boeing and other major employers should know the elected leaders of this region are taking serious steps to deal with the problem of transportation here.
"We can now move forward on service between Lakewood and Tacoma, providing a new option to commuters in south Pierce County," said Sound Transit Boardmember/Lakewood City Councilmember Claudia Thomas. "But the deal is even better than that; in gaining access to this additional track, not only is it possible to expand the commuter rail corridor, we also give the region control over the service on that section of track."
Under terms of the preliminary agreement Sound Transit will operate one round-trip train between Everett Station and Seattle's King Street Station before the end of this year. Details on start up of the additional three round-trip trains will be determined as part of the final agreement.
In the south, Sound Transit will also purchase or lease 21 miles of BNSF track between Tacoma and the Nisqually Delta - expanding the commuter rail corridor from 82 to nearly 100 miles. It provides the means for completing the voter-approved commuter rail connection between Lakewood, Piece County's second-largest city, and Tacoma. It also makes expansion of rail service to Dupont and points south possible in the future.
Final details of the agreement, to be negotiated over the next 90-120 days, will be subject to approval by the entire Sound Transit Board and BNSF. Sound Transit will pay BNSF a total of $224 million, plus interest, over four years for the segment between Seattle and Everett and $27 million to purchase and/or lease the Tacoma-to-Nisqually section of track.
Sounder service began September 2000 and currently serves about 14,000 passengers per week with three round-trips each weekday between Tacoma and Seattle.
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