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.

Friday, September 2nd, 2016

Another breakthrough: Sound Transit reports that North Link tunnel mining is complete!

The con­tract­ing team work­ing to dig the tun­nels need­ed to bring Link light rail to North­gate via the Uni­ver­si­ty Dis­trict and Roo­sevelt has suc­cess­ful­ly com­plet­ed its min­ing work, Sound Tran­sit announced today.

The mile­stone was actu­al­ly reached yes­ter­day when a tun­nel bor­ing machine oper­at­ed by con­trac­tor JCM North­link LLC holed through to the con­struc­tion retrieval shaft adja­cent to UW Sta­tion at Husky Sta­di­um.

JCM North­link is a joint ven­ture of three com­pa­nies: Jay Dee Con­trac­tors, Frank Coluc­cio Con­struc­tion Com­pa­ny, and Michels Cor­po­ra­tion. The con­tract­ing team began dig­ging the sev­en miles of light rail tun­nels in 2014; Sound Tran­sit says the min­ing oper­a­tion result­ed in the exca­va­tion of more than 500,000 cubic yards of soil and the instal­la­tion of 7,352 con­crete tun­nel lin­er rings.

“In just a few years, light rail rid­ers will be enjoy­ing fast, fre­quent, con­ges­tion-free ser­vice to the U‑District, Roo­sevelt and North­gate,” said Sound Tran­sit Board Chair and King Coun­ty Exec­u­tive Dow Con­stan­tine in a press release. “By this time next month, we’ll have opened the Angle Lake sta­tion in SeaT­ac, our third new sta­tion in six months. These are just two exam­ples of Sound Tran­sit’s steady progress as we work to expand light rail through­out the Cen­tral Puget Sound region.”

Sound Tran­sit kind­ly invit­ed NPI and oth­er media out­lets to take a look at the tun­nel bor­ing machine’s cut­ter­head fol­low­ing its break­through this morning.

NPI’s Ren­nie Sawade was able to get sev­er­al excel­lent wide angle shots while at the con­struc­tion zone, which we’ve post­ed to our microblog, In Brief, for your view­ing enjoy­ment. Our pho­to of the cut­ter­head (which we think you’ll agree is a pret­ty impres­sive sight!) has been repub­lished by Sound Tran­sit on its offi­cial Insta­gram feed with a brief descrip­tion of this morn­ing’s event.

A Link light rail train departs UW Station

A Link light rail train departs UW Sta­tion. In 2021, Link trains will trav­el under­ground to three new sta­tions: Uni­ver­si­ty Dis­trict, Roo­sevelt, and North­gate. (Pho­to: Ren­nie Sawade/NPI)

Sound Tran­sit’s North Link tun­nelling mile­stone iron­i­cal­ly occurred the same day that the Seat­tle Times pub­lished the lat­est in a series of edi­to­ri­als intend­ed to under­mine Sound Tran­sit 3, the agen­cy’s 2016 pro­pos­al for sys­tem expansion.

ST3 would bring light rail to Bal­lard, West Seat­tle, down­town Red­mond, Everett, Taco­ma, and com­mu­ni­ties in between. It would also expand Sounder com­muter rail and ST Express bus ser­vice. ST3 is tru­ly the bold invest­ment in high qual­i­ty tran­sit that our region needs. The Times, how­ev­er, is opposed, and has been beat­ing the drum against ST3 for months, along with oth­er foes of the agency.

The Times has tried to make its oppo­si­tion to Sound Tran­sit 3 sound more rea­son­able by urg­ing the Board to “slow down” and work on “a lean­er Plan B” that would go before the vot­ers in some future year, con­ve­nient­ly fail­ing to acknowl­edge that ST3 is based on years of pub­lic out­reach (includ­ing count­less com­mu­ni­ty work­shops), con­sul­ta­tions with cities across the region, and opin­ion research.

(After Sound Tran­sit’s Board wise­ly ignored this con­cern trolling and unan­i­mous­ly sent ST3 to the bal­lot, the Times shift­ed its stance slight­ly and began call­ing for a “robust” debate over ST3 so vot­ers could make an “informed” decision.)

“A pause and reset would not stop Sound Transit’s progress,” the Times edi­to­ri­al­ized in June. “It has fund­ing for years to build and com­plete rail from Seat­tle north to Lyn­nwood, south beyond Sea-Tac and east to Redmond.”

Nowhere in that edi­to­r­i­al or in sub­se­quent edi­to­ri­als did the Times men­tion that in 2008, it was com­plete­ly and total­ly opposed to autho­riz­ing Sound Tran­sit to raise the fund­ing to bring Link north, south, and east — as the agency is now doing.

The “progress” we’re see­ing now is only hap­pen­ing because the peo­ple of Puget Sound ignored the Sound Tran­sit bash­ing Seat­tle Times edi­to­r­i­al board and gave a big thumbs up to ST2. In the eight years that have tran­spired since, Sound Tran­sit has been hard at work try­ing to deliv­er the projects the vot­ers authorized.

Now is the per­fect oppor­tu­ni­ty to ensure that the agency has the back­ing it needs to keep sys­tem expan­sion going for years to come. ST3 is all about bring­ing more high qual­i­ty, high capac­i­ty tran­sit to our con­gest­ed urban cor­ri­dors as quick­ly as pos­si­ble, so that few­er of us are forced to dri­ve to get to where we want to go. A bold invest­ment is pre­cise­ly what’s need­ed to com­bat the grid­lock we’re stew­ing in.

Sound Tran­sit has proved, repeat­ed­ly, that it can deliv­er tran­sit expan­sion projects to the peo­ple of this region. Under the lead­er­ship of Joni Earl, ST adopt­ed a pos­ture of striv­ing for con­tin­u­ous improve­ment in all facets of project man­age­ment, from con­cep­tu­al­iza­tion to design to con­struc­tion to com­mu­ni­ca­tion to mitigation.

Ear­l’s suc­ces­sor Peter Rogoff has con­tin­ued to build on the cul­ture of excel­lence Earl fos­tered dur­ing her incred­i­bly suc­cess­ful tenure at the agen­cy’s helm.

Impres­sive­ly, Rogoff has tak­en the time to meet with the pub­lic at ST’s com­mu­ni­ty work­shops. He’s led pre­sen­ta­tions, field­ed ques­tions and made him­self avail­able for con­ver­sa­tions with tax­pay­ers. He’s an acces­si­ble CEO… our favorite kind.

Sound Tran­sit knows what the pub­lic wants because it has made a con­cert­ed effort to ask the pub­lic for input. By send­ing ST3 to the bal­lot, it’s act­ed on that input.

ST3 reflects the pub­lic’s desire for a trans­porta­tion sys­tem that is ori­ent­ed around peo­ple, not cars, and allows for a reli­able commute.

With ST3, we are decid­ing as a region whether we want to autho­rize Sound Tran­sit to fur­ther expand the net­work of high qual­i­ty, high capac­i­ty tran­sit it has been build­ing to more places. The actu­al design and con­struc­tion will only pro­ceed if vot­ers give the green light, as was the case with Sound Move in 1996 and ST in 2008. Sound Tran­sit now has twen­ty years of expe­ri­ence with project man­age­ment, and after a rocky start, it has demon­strat­ed it is wor­thy of our trust.

This North Link tun­nelling mile­stone is the lat­est indi­ca­tion that ST2 is going well. Sound Tran­sit’s on a roll, and we should keep it that way by say­ing YES to ST3.

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