NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Tuesday, January 26th, 2016

Sound Transit to inaugurate University Link light rail service on Saturday, March 19th

Flanked by Seattle Mayor Ed Murray and new Sound Transit CEO Peter Rogoff, King County Executive Dow Constantine announced today at a media event on Capitol Hill that Sound Transit’s University Link light rail extension, which has been in the construction phase for the last few years, will have its public grand opening on Saturday, March 19th, 2016, at 10 AM in the morning.

“University Link opens March 19th, changing forever how we move around Seattle,” said Constantine in a news release distributed at the event. “With fast, frequent trains bypassing some of the region’s worst traffic, thousands of people will now be able to get to work, school and appointments on time, every time.”

University Link was originally scheduled to open in the autumn of 2016, but because construction went so smoothly, it is opening ahead of schedule and under budget. Much of the project’s cost was taken care of by the federal government, thanks to appropriations secured by United States Senator Patty Murray.

“As the Puget Sound region continues to grow, we need to make transportation investments that make our communities more livable, create jobs, improve access to education centers, and support our local small businesses,” Murray said. “That’s why I am so thrilled to see Sound Transit reach this milestone on this important project for commuters and communities, and it’s why I am going to keep fighting for local investments like these that help our economy grow from the middle out.”

University Link route map

University Link extends light rail north from Westlake to the University of Washington (Map: Sound Transit)

The 3.15 mile University Link extension adds two new stations to Puget Sound’s light rail spine.

One is on Capitol Hill, near Cal Anderson Park, with multiple station entrances. The other is adjacent to Husky Stadium and Hec Ed at the University of Washington.

University Link is completely underground, running in its own right of way, so the experience of riding it will be somewhat similar to a subway. No matter what the weather or the traffic is, it will be possible to move between Westlake Center and the University of Washington in seven to eight minutes.

That’s going to be huge.

Metro and Sound Transit plan a series of major changes to bus routes and schedules one week after University Link opens (on March 26th), to ensure that bus service better complements the newly extended light rail spine.

At today’s event on Capitol Hill, Constantine and Murray unveiled a special clock that is counting down the days, hours, minutes, and seconds until U Link opens. There are many festivities planning for Opening Day, as Sound Transit explains:

We’re kicking off U Link service with a free community celebration that includes music, performance art, community booths and more.  From 9 AM to 5 PM on March 19, we’re hosting a tailgate party at University of Washington Station and a street festival at Capitol Hill Station – with light rail serving as your link to both. Stations open and train service begins at 10 AM. Subscribe to U Link Updates to get the latest details on our Launch Day lineup.

If you would like to be among the first to ride U Link on Opening Day, you can enter to win a special “Golden Ticket” from Sound Transit:

Here are the ways to enter and win (you must be 18 or older):

Follow @SoundTransit on Facebook, Twitter or InstagramTake a photo or video letting us know where you will Link in 2016. Share using #Ulink2016 @SoundTransit.

Listen to these radio stations: KEXP (90.3 FM); KUOW (94.9 FM); KNDD (107.7 FM) and KNHC (C 89.5 FM) for your chance to win two Golden Tickets.

Subscribe for U Link updates. Subscribers will also receive updates about special U Link Launch Day events and promotions.

Stop by any of these U District or Roosevelt businesses, spend $5 or more and fill out an “enter to win” Golden Ticket raffle card (begins January 29). Participating businesses include: Brooklyn Avenue Dental, Cedars of Lebanon, My Favorite Deli, Nasai Teriyaki, Neptune Music Company, Samir’s Mediterranean Grill, Sweet Alchemy (opens February), Ugly Mug Café, Health Mutt, Nature Nails, Pies and Pints, Roosevelt Vacuum, Subway (Roosevelt Square), Teddy’s, Thrive, Toronado, UPS Store on 65th.

Visit Rules & regulations for more details.

We will be bringing you full live coverage of University Link Opening Day on March 19th, as we did in 2009 when Central Link and Airport Link opened to the public.

The completion of University Link is a watershed moment for our region, one worth celebrating. Since the founding of Permanent Defense in February of 2002 (which predates NPI by about a year and a half), this organization has worked diligently to defend Sound Transit from the likes of Tim Eyman and ensure that our region gets the light rail spine it needs and deserves.

All of that work has been completely worth it. Today, Sound Transit is flying high and enjoys broad popular support. Thanks to the leadership of Joni Earl, who is now CEO Emeritus, Sound Transit is a model public agency that is firing on all cylinders, delivering projects on time or ahead of schedule, and under budget.

If ST had been shut down and disbanded as critics were demanding during the “dark days” of the late 1990s and early 2000s, we wouldn’t have Central Link and Airport Link, commuter rail, express bus service, streetcars in Tacoma and Seattle, or the enhancements to our park and ride system that Sound Transit has delivered.

It should not be forgotten that fourteen years ago, Tim Eyman launched I-776, an initiative that sought to destroy Sound Transit by eliminating one of its principal revenue sources (the motor vehicle excise tax). I-776 narrowly passed, but was partially invalidated by the courts, allowing ST to proceed with plans to construct light rail from from downtown Seattle to Tukwila.

ST overcame a tremendous amount of hostility and opposition to secure the necessary financing to move forward and break ground on Central Link.

More than twelve years after the shovels went into the ground in the Rainier Valley, Link’s big build-out continues. The construction has never stopped. Even when Central Link was done, crews were working on Airport Link. And even when Airport Link was done, crews were working on University Link and Angle Lake Link. Both of those extensions will open this year. And even when those are done, the work of extending light rail north, south, and east will go on. It has to…. our region’s congested corridors need light rail just as soon as we can get it built.

Voters can see that their investments in a regional transit system are paying off. This November, the people of this region will have the opportunity to build on past investments with Sound Transit 3, a proposal that ST’s staff and board are working on to further extend light rail, commuter rail, and bus service to more neighborhoods in urban Puget Sound, including NPI’s hometown of Redmond.

We strongly support the development of ST3 and will be working to pass it once it is submitted to the ballot by Sound Transit’s Board later this year. In the meantime, it will be wonderful to celebrate the opening of University Link on March 19th!

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One Comment

  1. Three cheers for Sound Transit. I’ll be a regular user of this.

    # by Alysha Stanger :: January 27th, 2016 at 9:30 AM

One Ping

  1. […] Earth to Tim: this is 2016, not 2002. Sound Transit is not the weak target of yesteryear. Today, Sound Transit is a high-performing, extremely effective public agency that is popular with the public. And Link light rail is no longer a far-off dream — it’s real. It’s here. It exists. People use it to get to work every day. And this year, we’re adding three new stations to it. Two of those will open within fifty days. […]