Offering frequent news and analysis from the majestic Evergreen State and beyond, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Sound Transit's Airport Link to begin service on December 19th at 10 AM

This morning, flanked by Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels and King County Executive-elect Dow Constantine, Senator Patty Murray announced that Sound Transit will inaugurate service on Airport Link on Saturday, December 19th at 10 AM.

Press conference announcing Airport Link
Airport Link - which runs from Tukwila International Boulevard Station into the heart of SeaTac - is the final stage of Central Link, which connects the state's largest airport to downtown Seattle. Over the next two decades light rail will expand to the north, south, east, and west, with the construction of University Link, East Link, North Link, and South Link.

This morning's announcement was made against a backdrop of scaffolding, tarps, and construction carts. Even as Murray spoke, crews continued to work on the skybridge connecting the new SeaTac Station to the parking garage.

Airport Link skybridge under construction
Riders will be able to access the station using a pathway that will follow the perimeter of the parking garage, linking the terminal skybridges to the station skybridge. The first level of the station includes an expansive, beautiful mezzazine with ticketing machines, ORCA card readers, and public art. The platform is directly above, and can be accessed via escalator or elevator.

Senator Murray and Mayor Nickels talk on the SeaTac Station platform
In the coming decades, as the airport expands, the walk from the terminal to the station may actually get shorter. For the time being it will be a relatively painless walk through the parking garage. The station can also be accessed via another skybridge from the street (International Boulevard at NE 176th).

This second entryway, which hangs over International Boulevard, will soon permit easy transfers from bus to light rail or vice versa.

Currently riders bound to or from SeaTac Airport get to Link on connector buses that run between Tukwila's station and the terminal. Starting a week before Christmas, it'll be possible for people to deplane, collect their bags, and catch a train going northward without needing to look for a white bus.

Likewise, it'll be possible for travelers who don't want to sit in a traffic jam trying to get on State Route 518 to glide into the airport on Link, drop down from the platform, and walk through the parking garage right into the terminal. No parking, no waiting for people ahead to load or unload luggage from their vehicles, and no dealing with bumper to bumper bumpers.

Senator Murray told NPI she believes that the debut of Link has been a tremendous boost for mobility in our region.

"I talk to people all the time - who tell me, all the time - 'I never thought I'd get on light rail, but I tried it and it's great,'" Murray said.

The Senator added that she knows a woman in Northgate who was inititally skeptical about the benefits of light rail, but who was won over when she tried it, and now uses Link to commute to work.

Last month I took Link to get to a NO on I-1033 press conference in south Seattle, after transferring from a Sound Transit Express bus at Westlake Center.

I arrived in time for the start of the press conference, but ironically it was delayed as a courtesy to a television camera crew that was stuck in a traffic jam on Interstate 5. The backup was news to me when I arrived (to the amusement of the faith leaders who were to slated to speak) because I had enjoyed a smooth ride on light rail all the way from downtown to Columbia City, where I detrained.

I'm not the only one with a story like that. Link is one of the best infrastructure investments that we have ever made as a region. We should have built it sooner, but at long last, we've finally learned from our mistakes and are constructing a strong light rail system to connect our region together.


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