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, September 3rd, 2019

Sound Transit officially breaks ground on Lynnwood Link, delighting Snohomish County

Relief is in sight for grid­lock-weary Sno­homish Coun­ty res­i­dents tired of fight­ing con­ges­tion on I‑5 between down­town Seat­tle and Lyn­nwood.

Today, Sound Tran­sit offi­cial­ly broke ground on Lyn­nwood Link, which will bring light rail across the King/Snohomish coun­ty line for the first time, extend­ing the region’s high capac­i­ty tran­sit spine north­wards towards Everett.

Map of Lynnwood Link

Sound Tran­sit’s map of the Lyn­nwood Link exten­sion (Cour­tesy of Sound Tran­sit)

At a cer­e­mo­ny at the Lyn­nwood Tran­sit Cen­ter, the agency cel­e­brat­ed the long-antic­i­pat­ed mile­stone with a third of the state’s con­gres­sion­al del­e­ga­tion plus state leg­is­la­tors, labor lead­ers, and con­struc­tion work­ers.

“Today’s ground­break­ing is the cul­mi­na­tion of more than a decade of plan­ning and prepa­ra­tion,” said Sound Tran­sit CEO Peter Rogoff in a state­ment.

“From the begin­ning, this project has received enthu­si­as­tic sup­port from the fed­er­al, state and local gov­ern­ments, our con­gres­sion­al del­e­ga­tion, the busi­ness and labor com­mu­ni­ties, and vot­ers — a sign of the hunger for relief from the hor­ren­dous high­way con­ges­tion fac­ing trav­el­ers every day. This project will be a game chang­er for Sno­homish Coun­ty com­muters. And in the years to come, we will be extend­ing Link from Lyn­nwood all the way to Everett.”

Near­ly every­one else who spoke joined Rogoff in tout­ing Link’s planned north­ward exten­sion to the seat and largest city of Sno­homish Coun­ty.

Get­ting Link to Everett was one of the cen­ter­pieces of the Sound Tran­sit Phase III (ST3) sys­tem expan­sion plan in 2016. But Everett Link may not hap­pen on time — or at all — if we don’t stop Tim Eyman’s Ini­tia­tive 976, which is on the bal­lot this far. I‑976 seeks to repeal one of the three prin­ci­pal fund­ing sources for ST3, which would result in the loss of bil­lions in rev­enue and severe­ly impair Sound Tran­sit’s abil­i­ty to bor­row mon­ey to finance the projects that vot­ers approved.

I‑976 is opposed by a broad and diverse coali­tion that NPI has been deeply involved in pulling togeth­er. The ros­ter of par­tic­i­pat­ing orga­ni­za­tions is grow­ing longer by the day as more and more Wash­ing­to­ni­ans sign on to help defeat I‑976. If you have not yet got­ten engaged, you can do so at no976.org.

The fact that all three of Wash­ing­ton’s top three statewide elect­ed offi­cials showed up to this ground­break­ing says a lot about what this project means to our region. When Lyn­nwood Link is com­plete and open to the pub­lic in just a few years, it will be pos­si­ble to roll between Seat­tle and Sno­homish Coun­ty in a pre­dictable amount of time, every day of the week, regard­less of traf­fic con­di­tions.

At present, the only tran­sit ser­vice between Seat­tle and Sno­homish Coun­ty that does­n’t have to share the road with cars on fre­quent­ly grid­locked Inter­state 5 or arte­ri­als run­ning par­al­lel to I‑5 is Sounder North, which does not make any stops between Edmonds and King Street Sta­tion in down­town Seat­tle and only runs dur­ing com­mut­ing hours except for spe­cial “Game Day” week­end trains.

Link will rev­o­lu­tion­ize tran­sit in North King Coun­ty and South Sno­homish Coun­ty, per­mit­ting Sound Tran­sit, Metro, and Com­mu­ni­ty Tran­sit to extend the reach of the region’s tran­sit net­work by real­lo­cat­ing bus ser­vice to under­served areas.

Is it any won­der, then, that Sno­homish Coun­ty lead­ers are pos­i­tive­ly delight­ed?

Sno­homish Coun­ty Exec­u­tive Dave Somers is thrilled. “The expan­sion of Link light rail will be trans­for­ma­tive for Sno­homish Coun­ty and the region,” he said. “Too many of our res­i­dents are stuck in traf­fic for far too long every day. Giv­ing them addi­tion­al options to avoid dri­ving — includ­ing light rail, bus rapid tran­sit and heavy rail — will improve their qual­i­ty of life and our region’s envi­ron­men­tal health.”

Sound Tran­sit has long been count­ing on fed­er­al funds to make Lyn­nwood Link a real­i­ty. Wash­ing­ton’s con­gres­sion­al del­e­ga­tion deliv­ered, even with Don­ald Trump in the White House. Although Unit­ed States tax­pay­ers are mak­ing a sig­nif­i­cant and cru­cial con­tri­bu­tion, it is impor­tant to note that local tax­es still make up the lion’s share of the pro­jec­t’s fund­ing. It is a true part­ner­ship in every sense.

Here’s the basics on what is being built, when it’ll open, and who will ben­e­fit:

Lyn­nwood Link light rail ser­vice is sched­uled to begin in 2024. Sound Tran­sit plans trains to oper­ate every four to six min­utes dur­ing week­day peak hours.

Com­muters from the Lyn­nwood Tran­sit Cen­ter will enjoy twen­ty-minute rides to the Uni­ver­si­ty of Wash­ing­ton, twen­ty-sev­en minute rides to down­town Seat­tle and six­ty minute rides to Sea-Tac Air­port. Trains from Lyn­nwood will also serve the East­side and reach down­town Belle­vue in fifty-one min­utes. Sound Tran­sit projects rid­er­ship to reach between 47,000 and 55,000 dai­ly rid­ers by 2026.

Empha­sis is mine. Think about that: Trains will be run­ning every four to six min­utes dur­ing peak hours. No joke! Trains will come so often that rid­ers won’t need to wor­ry about sched­ules. Just tap that ORCA card, walk onto the plat­form, and board a Blue Line train that will ulti­mate­ly go to the East­side, or a Red Line train for points south of Down­town Seat­tle. You can zip by the traf­fic on Inter­state 5 in a ful­ly acces­si­ble elec­tric light rail vehi­cle with no tailpipe.

In just two years, the north­ern ter­mi­nus of our rail spine will move from the UW to North­gate with the open­ing of three new sta­tions. That will put light rail near­ly four and half miles clos­er to to the Sno­homish Coun­ty line. If con­struc­tion goes as planned, Lyn­nwood Link will fol­low just three years lat­er.

NPI con­grat­u­lates Sound Tran­sit on today’s mile­stone and wish­es con­trac­tors Sta­cy & Witbeck/Kiewit/Hoffman JV, Skan­s­ka L300 JV, and our union labor­ers all the best as they under­take the work of bring­ing Link north into Sno­homish Coun­ty.

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