UW Regents approve construction for UW light rail station
The University of Washington Board of Regents today formally approved construction of the University of Washington Link light rail underground station and twin tunnels into the station. The agreement marks another important step before launching construction on the University Link light rail extension between UW and downtown Seattle.
“This light rail extension will serve some of the region’s most important engines for research, education and economic development,” said Sound Transit Board Chair and Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels. “We look forward to working closely with the University throughout construction and continuing the strong partnership we have developed to get this project moving.”
“When the system is complete, students, faculty, staff, and visitors from around the region will find it much easier to come to campus,” said UW President Mark A. Emmert. “And they will also be traveling in an environmentally friendly mode. Construction will cause some inconvenience, but the result will be well worth it.”
The Board of Regents’ news follows the Federal Transit Administration’s announcement last week of its intent to award a $813 million grant toward University Link construction. The FTA grant, currently under a 60-day Congressional review, could be executed in January.
Sound Transit is in the final stages of preparing to break ground on University Link, a 3.15-mile underground line with stations at Capitol Hill and the University of Washington. It is an extension to the Link light rail line scheduled to open between downtown Seattle and Sea-Tac International Airport in 2009. The university station will be located near Husky Stadium, the UW Medical Center and research facilities, and will provide easy access to the main campus. The $1.9 billion University Link extension is expected to open in 2016 and add more than 70,000 daily riders to the system. With the Sound Transit 2 package that voters approved on Nov. 4, annual light rail ridership is projected to total more than 86 million by 2030.
The population of the corridor served by University Link will increase by a projected 56 percent between 2000 and 2030, adding further to congestion and the relief provided by light rail service. Its great benefit to the community helped the University Link project earn the highest possible ranking, among light rail projects across the country, in the extremely competitive federal funding process.
University Link will provide a reliable option for drivers and transit users who are currently stuck on Interstate 5, which operates over capacity for up to eight hours a day with vehicle speeds running between 15 and 35 mph. Already, buses can run up to 30 minutes behind schedule due to congestion. Compared to bus service, University Link travel times will be almost three times faster. From the University District, it will take nine minutes instead of 25 minutes to get downtown and three minutes instead of 22 minutes to get to Capitol Hill.
The balance of University Link funding comes from existing Sound Transit revenues, and was not part of the successful November ballot measure to fund Sound Transit 2. That mass transit expansion package directs Sound Transit to extend the Link light rail by 36 more miles, reaching north to Northgate, Mountlake Terrace, Shoreline and Lynnwood; east to Mercer Island, Bellevue, and the Overlake area of Redmond; and south to Highline and the Star Lake/Redondo area of Federal Way.