ST Board narrows focus for North Corridor expansions to light rail options along I-5

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Environmental studies move forward on I-5 alignment between Northgate and Lynnwood

The Sound Transit Board of Directors today took a major step toward expanding mass transit to Snohomish County, unanimously directing staff to move ahead with environmental studies to identify a light rail route along the Interstate 5 corridor. Sound Transit will now examine routing and station details between Northgate and Lynnwood as it prepares a Draft Environmental Impact Statement.

"This is a big step for thousands of commuters who travel between Snohomish and King counties every day," said Sound Transit Board Chair and Snohomish County Executive Aaron Reardon. "After extensive study of alternatives, it is clear that light rail is the right technology and that I-5 is the right corridor."

Sound Transit recently concluded an 18-month process to analyze comparative bus rapid transit service and several different light rail alignment alternatives. The Alternatives Analysis concluded that extending light rail along the I-5 corridor would have the fastest travel times, the highest ridership and the least cost of comparable routes and service levels.

The analysis estimates the line will carry 52,000 riders a day by 2030 and take about 14 minutes to travel between Lynnwood and Northgate, with four stations and trains running every four minutes during rush hours.

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Construction is scheduled to begin in 2018 and open for service in late 2023. Voters approved the project as part of the 2008 Sound Transit 2 package of light rail extensions to the north, east and south of Seattle. The project is estimated to cost between $1.4 and $1.6 billion. Sound Transit believes the project will be very competitive for federal funding because of its high ridership potential through one of the most congested corridors in the country.

Early next year Sound Transit will begin the next phase of analysis and public outreach to help determine the best potential locations for stations and track. Carefully selected criteria - such as station accessibility and property impacts - will be used to ensure the most important questions are asked and answered.

By 2023 the line will connect with the light rail station at Northgate and travel south through the University of Washington to downtown Seattle where riders can continue on to Sea-Tac International Airport and further south or ride east across Lake Washington to Mercer Island, Bellevue and the Overlake/Microsoft campus area.