Sound Transit East Link Tunneling Progressing

Sound Transit East Link

Crews perform preparatory work at the site of the East Link north portal.

On Feb. 24, Sound Transit briefed elected officials and media on East Link light rail tunnel construction that is now underway in downtown Bellevue.

Crews from Atkinson Construction are excavating at the south portal site at 112th Ave. Northeast and Main. When complete, the tunnel will be approximately one-third of a mile long, running between the future East Main and Downtown Bellevue stations under 110th Ave. Northeast, turning east near Northeast 6th Street. A video of the tunnel portal and route through downtown Bellevue can be viewed here.

Because of the short tunnel length, and to minimize impact on neighboring homes and businesses, Sound Transit is constructing the tunnel using the Sequential Excavation Method (SEM) rather than using a tunnel boring machine or digging a large trench that is later covered. SEM removes soil in small sections or bites using an excavator and cutting equipment. As soon as soil is removed, the excavation is stabilized with shotcrete and lattice girders.

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Tunnel facts:

  • Tunnel is approximately 2,000 linear feet long, or approximately one-third of a mile
  • Height of the tunnel is 27 feet, 10 inches.
  • Overall width (north and south-bound sides) is 34 feet.
  • Each side is 16 feet, 3 inches wide, with a center dividing wall.
  • Tunnel is 30 to 60 feet below the surface.
  • Excavation is expected to progress at approximately 3 to 4 feet per day.

The tunnel’s inclusion in East Link project was enabled by City of Bellevue in-kind contributions of $100 million, including property and permitting, formalized in an MOU executed by the Sound Transit Board in April 2015. East Link will extend light rail 14 miles from downtown Seattle to downtown Bellevue and the Overlake area of Redmond via Interstate 90, with 10 stations. By the end of 2017, all segments of the East Link extension will be under construction, and the entire line will be operational in 2023. The following year Sound Transit will open a 3.7-mile extension further east to new stations in Southeast Redmond and downtown Redmond under funding approved in November 2016.

The Northgate Link light rail extension that is currently under construction will reach Seattle’s University District, Roosevelt and Northgate areas in 2021. Additional Link extensions that are nearing construction will reach north to Lynnwood in 2023 and south to Federal Way in 2024. Later extensions to form a 116-mile regional system will reach Everett, Tacoma, West Seattle, Ballard, South Kirkland and Issaquah. By 2040 Sound Transit projects Link trains will carry approximately 600,000 riders each weekday.

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