Nearly six years to the day after Central Link opened to the public, crews working on behalf of Sound Transit have finished two major phases of construction on forthcoming badly-needed extensions of our light rail system.
In SeaTac, Angle Lake Link got one step closer to completion with the hoisting of the last thirty-five ton concrete segments for the elevated guideway, which extends the tracks south from the airport and towards a new terminus at South 200th Street. The station there will host a large park and ride with 1,050 parking stalls.
“Finishing the guideway moves us one step closer to extending light rail to the Angle Lake community,” said Sound Transit Board Chair and King County Executive Dow Constantine. “By next fall, Link riders will be able to board one stop south of the airport and ride congestion-free all the way to the University of Washington.”
Sound Transit is currently testing trains on the University Link extension, which will link Westlake Center with Husky Stadium via Capitol Hill. U‑Link is all underground and will offer reliable transportation between two of the city’s densest neighborhoods no matter what the weather or traffic. It opens next year.
Like University Link, Angle Lake Link is under budget (by $20 million) and ahead of schedule. The total price tag for the extension is $383 million. Work has gone smoothly and the station should be open by the fall of 2016… just in time for the presidential election, when Puget Sound voters will be likely be given the chance to approve financing for Link’s further expansion north, south, and east.
“When light rail reaches South 200th Street next year, thousands of folks in South King County will have access to job centers and other destinations,” said Sound Transit Boardmember and King County Councilmember Dave Upthegrove. “We appreciate the partnership of the Port of Seattle, the City of SeaTac, and the state Department of Transportation as project construction continues.”
Meanwhile, north of the University District, the tunnel boring machine Pamela broke through to the shaft that will eventually house the Roosevelt station. I was onsite earlier today to watch crews at work, and it was a wonderful sight to see.
Crews were clearly excited about the big accomplishment, as you can see here:
Here’s a closer view of Pamela:
“Our second Northgate Link tunnel machine has reached the Roosevelt Station, halfway from the North Portal to the U District,” said Constantine.
“This keeps Sound Transit right on schedule to get the digging done by mid-2016 and Northgate Link in operation by 2021.”
Watch Pamela break though by playing the video above.
Pamela’s companion tunnel boring machine Brenda already finished digging the other Northgate-to-Roosevelt tunnel (breakthrough was in March), and is presently heading towards the University of Washington.
Pamela will do likewise after it is refurbished in the shaft.
By 2018, North Link tunneling should be complete, setting the stage for inauguration of service to Northgate in 2021.
Some facts about the TBMs from Sound Transit:
- Each tunnel boring machine weighs six hundred tons and is more than three hundred feet long with trailing gear
- The cutterheads (the rotating faces of the machine that bore underground) are twenty one and half feet in diameter
- By the time tunneling is finished, more than 500,000 cubic yards of soil will have been excavated and over 7,200 concrete rings used to line the tunnels
The Northgate segments have a total cost of $2.1 billion.
Traffic between Northgate and downtown Seattle tends to be brutal during rush hour, and sluggish even during other times of the day, so Link’s arrival there will be a huge blessing for the region, offering a much-needed alternative to Interstate 5.
It’s too bad it won’t open sooner, but building rail infrastructure (particularly underground rail infrastructure) takes time.
We had an opportunity to start building a rail spine for Puget Sound in the 1960s with Forward Thrust, and we chose not to. We’re still living with the consequences of that decision today. Thankfully, we’ve learned from that mistake.
Tonight, the NPI team will raise glasses in a toast to Sound Transit’s most recent successes. May there be many more in the months and years ahead. Our region needs Link light rail extended in all directions without delay. Every new segment and station that Sound Transit gets built will put reliable rapid transit within the reach of more Washingtonians, adding to the value of the existing system.