On March 19, Washington State’s most congested areas will begin a new era of mobility as Sound Transit opened the University Link light rail extension, with eight-minute rides between the University of Washington and downtown Seattle.
The University Link project is opening six months ahead of schedule and about $200 million under its $1.9 billion budget. The project’s success was supported by strong collaboration with the federal government and partners including the City of Seattle and University of Washington and the Washington State Department of Transportation.
“Today, we celebrate an historic achievement – delivering new high-capacity light rail that will transform transportation in our region for the next century,” said Sound Transit Board Chair and King County Executive Dow Constantine. “Thousands of commuters will now be able to get to their destination on time, every time, even as our population grows. Thanks to support from U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, our representatives in Congress, our staff at Sound Transit and, most importantly, local voters, we are creating the reliable mass-transit system our region needs.”
The Federal Transit Administration provided $829 million in grants to the new line. University Link connects with the existing light rail line between SeaTac and downtown Seattle on which ridership has grown in double-digit percentages every year since its 2009 opening. That line received $500 million in federal grants.
The City of Seattle played a major role in developing the project and land use planning around the stations.
The University Link extension is estimated to nearly double weekday ridership on the existing light rail line to more than 70,000 riders on weekdays by 2020.
The 3.2-mile expansion of light rail service included two main tunneling contracts: U220, completed by a joint venture of Traylor Brothers and Frontier-Kemper, and U230, completed by a joint venture of Jay Dee, Frank Coluccio Construction Company and Michels.
The extension includes two new stations. The Capitol Hill Station will bring Link service to Capitol Hill, the Broadway business district, and the surrounding highly populated residential areas. Nearby major employers and educational institutions include Seattle University, Seattle Central Community College, and the Group Health Medical Center. Riders will also be able to easily connect to buses and the First Hill Streetcar.
The University of Washington (UW) Station is located near Husky Stadium, and has new pedestrian and bicycle facilities that will connect the station to the campus and surrounding neighborhoods. A trip between UW Station and downtown will take only eight minutes by light rail.