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.
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.