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.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Sound Transit inaugurates service on Airport Link, bringing light rail into SeaTac at last

Six years, one month, and eleven days after Sound Transit broke ground on Central Link, construction of the region's first light rail line has finally been completed with the opening of Airport Link, which brings reliable train service right into Seattle Tacoma International Airport.

Elected leaders speak at the grand opening of Airport Link
Amidst a backdrop of misty white clouds, the first train open to paying passengers rolled into the station about ten minutes after ten this morning, accompanied by whistling and cheers. The first train arrived at the conclusion of a ribbon cutting and a long speaking program which featured:
  • Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels
  • County Councilmember Julia Patterson
  • Congressman Adam Smith
  • Congressman Jim McDermott
  • Regional FTA Administrator Rick Krochalis
  • Governor Gregoire's chief of staff Jay Manning
  • Representative Dave Upthegrove
  • Port Commissioner John Creighton
  • SeaTac Mayor Ralph Shape
  • King County Executive Dow Constantine
Ribbon is cut for Airport Link
Sound Transit Executive Joni Earl also unveiled two bronze plaques that will be added to the SeaTac and Mount Baker stations to commemorate the leadership of Greg Nickels and the other Sound Transit Boardmembers who oversaw the construction and opening of Central Link. Then, with the help of the Rockettes, the ribbon was cut in front of the skybridge to the parking garage, and elected leaders went up the escalator to the platform to greet the first train to go into service.

And just like that, Tukwila International Boulevard Station ceased to be the southern terminus of the line. (Sound Transit's shuttle buses will continue to run for the rest of the day today, but then they will be discontinued.)

Many riders of the first train north, including yours truly, got off at Tukwila to catch the first train that would actually pull into SeaTac/Airport Station. Waiting on the other side of the platform to ride were over a dozen people with luggage, ready to catch a flight and head out of town.

The first SeaTac-inbound train was warmly greeted upon arrival into the station, and shortly thereafter, the crowds that had filled the station began to disperse.

Link train rolls into the station
For those who didn't come to the grand opening ceremony this morning, here's an overview of the station and how to access it.

The station itself comprises two levels, both of which are aerial. The first level is the mezzanine, which is where the entrances are. There are several entrances, including two skybridges. One connects to the airport's parking garage; the other spans International Boulevard and connects to a small transit parking lot.

The mezzanine level is home to ticket vending machines, seating, the luggage cart drop-off, and several art displays. The platform is just a short escalator or elevator ride away. Both levels offer great views of Concourse D, which exclusively serves Alaska Airlines, itself headquartered in SeaTac.

The ride to Tukwila International Boulevard Station takes three minutes and parallels the road for which the Tukwila station is named after.

Because the station was built out on the perimeter of the airport (next to the parking garage) it will relatively painless and easy to expand the tracks when construction begins on South Link.

The next expansion of our region's light rail system will be in 2016 when University Link is completed. That extension will add two more stations to Central Link: Capitol Hill and University of Washington.

That's six years away, but at least for now, we have a light rail line that connects our region's biggest transportation hub with downtown Seattle.

Congratulations to Sound Transit and its construction partners for making this project happen and even inaugurating service in time for Christmas 2009.


Blogger jniles said...

Only six years, one month, and eleven days from groundbreaking to completion of Airport Link is a miracle considering that the elapsed time between voter approval of the necessary taxes in November 1996 and groundbreaking in November 2003 was seven years.

Our next light rail station opening, according to Sound Transit papers submitted to Puget Sound Regional Council for additional Federal funds, should be the South 200th station and park & ride lot two miles south of SeaTac Airport, estimated opening in July 2014.

Four & 1/2 years should be sufficient time for this two mile track extension based on Sound Transit's planning and construction record to date. The station structure itself is already designed, and the environmental process is complete, as documented on the PSRC web at .

December 21, 2009 2:52 PM  

Post a Comment

By posting a comment, you agree to be bound by the Northwest Progressive Institute's Comments Policy, which may be updated at our discretion.

<< Home