Sound Transit picks preferred alternative for Lynnwood light rail; plans to open University Link extension early

Written by Jenifer Nunez, assistant editor
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Sound Transit

The Sound Transit Board of Directors identified a preferred alternative to extend light rail from the Northgate mall area in Seattle, Wash., north to Lynnwood in Snohomish County. The preferred route will mostly run adjacent to I-5 with stations in the Shoreline, Mountlake Terrace and Lynnwood areas.


The preferred alternative maintains access to Latvian Evangelical Lutheran Church in north Seattle and minimizes impacts to sensitive areas (wetlands, parks and streams) that were identified in the project Draft Environmental Impact Statement and in public comments. This milestone keeps the project on track to begin construction in 2018 and open by 2023.

“Today’s unanimous board vote marks an important step forward in expanding the regional light-rail spine,” said Sound Transit Board Chair and Pierce County Executive Pat McCarthy. “Lynnwood Link will provide the fast, frequent and reliable transit service that we need along this congested corridor connecting Snohomish and King Counties.”

Heading north from Northgate, the alignment for the preferred alternative runs mostly at grade on the east side of I-5 to the Mountlake Terrace Transit Center before moving to the west side of I-5 and continuing to the Lynnwood Transit Center. Potential station sites are at 145th, 185th and the Mountlake and Lynnwood transit centers. The board also directed staff to study options for stations at 130th in Seattle and 220th in Mountlake Terrace. Staff will also examine running trains in the I-5 median between Mountlake Terrace and Lynnwood.

Sound Transit will advance engineering work on the preferred alternative as it completes a Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS), which will include analysis of the preferred alternative, as well as all alternatives considered in the Draft EIS. The Board will make a final decision on the project to be built after the FEIS is published in 2015.

The 8.5-mile extension is scheduled to open in 2023 and could add up to 70,000 daily riders to the light-rail system by 2035. The line cuts through one of the most congested corridors in Washington and will move riders from Lynnwood to downtown Seattle in about 30 minutes, regardless of traffic conditions.

It will connect with the light-rail lines already under construction between downtown and Northgate with stations serving the University of Washington area and Capitol Hill. The East Link project connecting Microsoft, Bellevue, Mercer Island and downtown Seattle is also scheduled for completion by 2023, providing another fast connection for Lynnwood to regional employment and housing centers.

With the completion of all Sound Transit 2 light-rail expansions in 2023, Lynnwood Link will be part of a regional light rail system stretching more than 50 miles and carrying more than 300,000 passengers each weekday.

In other news, Sound Transit will open the University Link light-rail extension between January and March of 2016, six months earlier than previously scheduled, under plans detailed at a news conference with U.S. Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA).

“Every new light-rail station helps commuters, businesses and local communities, but this station is particularly important, because it will strengthen the connection between our entire region and one of our most cherished institutions, the University of Washington (UW),” said Sen. Murray. “I’m thrilled that Sound Transit, the University of Washington and the city of Seattle have been able to work together and build this station ahead of schedule, because this expansion will benefit our region for generations to come.”

University Link is currently 79 percent complete and trending more than $100 million under budget. The mining phases that posed the biggest risks to the project schedule are complete. Contractors are currently installing rail in the twin tunnels and continuing construction at the two new stations on Capitol Hill and at UW.

The University of Washington Station is about 80 percent complete and the Capitol Hill Station is about 25 percent complete. Opening early will require continued close coordination among the contractors building the stations and the follow-on systems contractors installing the power, communications and fire/life/safety systems necessary to operate the system.

Staff will report back to the board of directors in late 2014 or early 2015 with a specific opening day for commuters to mark on their calendars.



Categories: OFF Track Maintenance, Rapid Transit/Light Rail