"It's been a heck of a journey, but we delivered on what we promised: light rail from downtown Seattle to the airport in 2009," said Seattle Mayor and Sound Transit Board Chair Greg Nickels. "This opens an entirely new option for travelers and commuters, and represents the first steps of a truly regional network."
The first 14 miles of light rail opened from downtown Seattle to Tukwila in July. The final segment from Tukwila to SeaTac/Airport Station, built under a close partnership with the Port of Seattle, provides a reliable 36-minute ride to the airport from downtown with 13 stops serving the SODO, Beacon Hill, Rainier Valley and Tukwila neighborhoods.
"Opening the doors to Sound Transit's airport line in time for the holidays is great gift to residents of the Puget Sound region," said U.S. Sen. Patty Murray. "This new line will provide fast and easy connections to downtown Seattle and a low-cost way to get around. This is just the latest in environmentally friendly transportation that will help ensure our region's long-term economic growth."
Service on the 1.7-mile extension line kicked off with an inaugural ribbon cutting at SeaTac / Airport Station before the station and trains opened for regular passenger service at 10 a.m.
"With more than 30 million passengers through Sea-Tac every year, and 15,000 airport employees, we anticipate light rail will be a welcome ‘green' alternative for travel to and from the airport," said Port of Seattle Commissioner John Creighton. "Using light rail will reduce air emissions and traffic congestion. It's good for the airport and it's good for our region."
Sound Transit and the Port of Seattle collaborated on the Airport Link project, which included the new light rail station, pedestrian bridges connecting the station to the airport parking garage and a pick-up and drop-off area to the east serving the city of SeaTac. The Port also relocated and upgraded the Airport Expressway and the Return-to-Terminal roadway loop.
The next light rail extension is scheduled to open in 2016 with service from downtown Seattle to Capitol Hill and the University of Washington. Construction is underway on that segment while Sound Transit plans for 36 more miles of light rail extensions to Lynnwood, Bellevue, Redmond, Mercer Island and Federal Way by 2023.