NPI's Cascadia Advocate

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

Wednesday, October 23rd, 2019

Here we go! Sound Transit breaks ground on Downtown Redmond Link light rail extension

This after­noon, a few blocks away from NPI head­quar­ters at NE 164th & 83rd, Sound Tran­sit kicked off the con­struc­tion phase of the Down­town Red­mond Link light rail exten­sion with a short ground­break­ing cer­e­mo­ny and speak­ing program.

Downtown Redmond Link groundbreaking

Dig­ni­taries and civic lead­ers cel­e­brate the begin­ning of con­struc­tion on Sound Tran­sit’s Down­town Red­mond Link exten­sion (Pho­to: Andrew Villeneuve/Northwest Pro­gres­sive Institute)

When com­plete, this exten­sion will bring Blue Line trains into the heart of NPI’s home­town. Rev­enue ser­vice is ten­ta­tive­ly sched­uled to begin in late 2024.

This mile­stone holds enor­mous sig­nif­i­cance for me. I got into pol­i­tics in 2002 because I want­ed to pro­tect our region’s tran­sit future from the likes of Tim Eyman. I have always want­ed to see our region estab­lish a high capac­i­ty tran­sit sys­tem that would one day be expand­ed to Red­mond, which I am so for­tu­nate to call my home, and where NPI has been based since its incep­tion in 2003.

My first project as a new­ly mint­ed activist was Per­ma­nent Defense, which con­tin­ues to this day. I knew that to sur­vive and thrive, Sound Tran­sit would need polit­i­cal and com­mu­ni­ty sup­port, and I want­ed to do my part to unite our region in defense of the tran­sit that we had vot­ed for in 1996 with Sound Move.

As of next Feb­ru­ary, Per­ma­nent Defense will have an eigh­teen year track record of sup­port­ing the essen­tial work of Sound Transit.

When PD was found­ed, Link light rail was still on the draw­ing board and fed­er­al fund­ing was not in place for the ini­tial Cen­tral Link line.

Today, Link is a boom­ing high capac­i­ty tran­sit sys­tem with six­teen sta­tions and dozens more under con­struc­tion to the north and east of the main spine. Plan­ning is under­way to expand the sys­tem to the south and west, as well.

Downtown Redmond Link welcome sign

A sign wel­comes atten­dees to the Down­town Red­mond Link ground­break­ing event (Pho­to: Andrew Villeneuve/Northwest Pro­gres­sive Institute)

There is no doubt in my mind that light rail will rev­o­lu­tion­ize life in Red­mond and sur­round­ing com­mu­ni­ties. When the Blue Line reach­es down­town, it will be pos­si­ble to step onto a train and reli­ably com­mute to any num­ber of places — from the Finan­cial Dis­trict in Seat­tle to Cen­tu­ryLink Field or T‑Mobile Park to Over­lake Hos­pi­tal to the Microsoft cam­pus to UW Seat­tle and SeaT­ac Airport.

Some esti­mat­ed trav­el times:

  • Peo­ple trav­el­ing from down­town Red­mond will be able to reli­ably reach down­town Belle­vue in eigh­teen minutes;
  • … Lyn­nwood in six­ty-nine minutes;
  • … the Uni­ver­si­ty of Wash­ing­ton in forty-nine minutes;
  • … Sea-Tac Air­port in sev­en­ty-two minutes;
  • … and Fed­er­al Way in eighty-sev­en minutes.

Through modeshift­ing, it will be pos­si­ble to reach some of the afore­men­tioned des­ti­na­tions even more quick­ly. For exam­ple, for a faster trip to UW Seat­tle, I could take a Blue Line train part of the way and then trans­fer to a Sound Tran­sit or Metro bus going over the Ever­green Point Float­ing Bridge from down­town Red­mond. That way, I would­n’t have to go out of my way to reach my destination.

Hav­ing a rail spine on the East­side to sup­port our net­work of bus routes will be so lib­er­at­ing. Link tru­ly rep­re­sents free­dom for Puget Sounders.

Free­dom from mad­den­ing grid­lock on our highways.

Free­dom from being forced to drive.

Free­dom from bumpy roads.

Free­dom from cli­mate-destroy­ing air pollution.

Even if you love dri­ving and have no plans to ride Sound Tran­sit’s Blue Line, you will still ben­e­fit from it, because peo­ple like me will glad­ly, hap­pi­ly ride it and will choose it over hop­ping in the car for many of our trips.

My gen­er­a­tion knows and believes the future is mul­ti­modal. We are the ones who will inher­it this region, this coun­try, this Earth. We want to be able to get around more safe­ly, reli­ably, and sus­tain­ably than we can today.

Mobil­i­ty is impor­tant to us.

Walk­a­ble neigh­bor­hoods, bike paths, and high capac­i­ty tran­sit are all essen­tial to the future we want for our­selves and those com­ing after us.

Sound Tran­sit’s staff — who are sad­ly often demo­nized by Tim Eyman and right wing talk show hosts like Dori Mon­son — under­stand this. They are crit­i­cal thinkers and plan­ners who want our region to be ready for the future. They do not cling to sil­ly fan­tasies about autonomous, self-dri­ving cars solv­ing all of our trans­porta­tion prob­lems at some mag­i­cal junc­ture with­in the next few years. They rec­og­nize that to be eco­nom­i­cal­ly suc­cess­ful and well con­nect­ed, our region needs rail.

In 2002, I remem­ber think­ing, if we are suc­cess­ful in sav­ing Cen­tral Link and get­ting it built, I want to see light rail in Red­mond with­in twen­ty-five years.

Well, the very next year, Sound Tran­sit broke ground on Cen­tral Link. Now, six­teen autumns lat­er, Sound Tran­sit is break­ing ground on Down­town Red­mond Link.

We are on track to have the Blue Line in Red­mond in the mid-2020s.

What an incred­i­ble accomplishment.

Map of the Downtown Redmond Link extension

This Sound Tran­sit map shows the align­ment for Down­town Red­mond Link, includ­ing sur­face and aer­i­al seg­ments (Pho­to: Andrew Villeneuve/Northwest Pro­gres­sive Institute)

“Today we cel­e­brate a mile­stone in cre­at­ing a world-class trans­porta­tion sys­tem that will link com­mu­ni­ties across three coun­ties,” said King Coun­ty Exec­u­tive Dow Con­stan­tine, a for­mer ST board chair. “Not only will Red­mond, Mary­moor Park and Microsoft be acces­si­ble by high capac­i­ty rail, but Sound Tran­sit’s com­mu­ni­ty invest­ments will help deliv­er long-need­ed con­nec­tions between region­al bike trails, mak­ing it even eas­i­er to get around with­out a car.”

“Demand for tran­sit on the East­side will only increase as Red­mond con­tin­ues to grow as an area peo­ple want to live and work,” said Red­mond May­or and Sound Tran­sit Board Chair John Mar­chione. “Today we cel­e­brate a win for tran­sit rid­ers, dri­vers and pedes­tri­ans who will soon trav­el quick­ly, eas­i­ly and traf­fic-free between homes and work­places in Red­mond and des­ti­na­tions through­out the region.”

“Down­town Red­mond’s open­ing, just one year after the com­ple­tion of East Link, will unlock trans­for­ma­tive mobil­i­ty and eco­nom­ic oppor­tu­ni­ties,” said King Coun­ty Coun­cil Vice Chair and Sound Tran­sit Board­mem­ber Clau­dia Balducci.

“The 2024 open­ing will not only pro­vide con­ges­tion-free trips to more jobs and schools across the region, it will cre­ate new con­nec­tions to our most icon­ic parks and trails and it could spur much need­ed afford­able hous­ing on the Eastside.”

“Today’s ground­break­ing fol­lows years of plan­ning and part­ner­ship to com­plete the region­al tran­sit net­work to Down­town Red­mond,” said Sound Tran­sit CEO Peter Rogoff. “With­in five years our Link exten­sions to Red­mond, Lyn­nwood and Fed­er­al Way, and Stride BRT ser­vice on I‑405 and SR-522 will enable many thou­sands more rid­ers to escape crip­pling traffic.”

What a joy­ous day it will be when Link opens it doors to rid­ers in down­town Red­mond. NPI will be there to cel­e­brate that momen­tous occa­sion. Until then, we will cheer on the efforts to con­struct our new sta­tions and aer­i­al guideways.

And we will con­tin­ue to do every­thing we can to defeat Tim Eyman’s incred­i­bly destruc­tive I‑976, which threat­ens fund­ing for Down­town Red­mond Link.

We wish Sound Tran­sit, con­trac­tor Sta­cy & Witbeck/Kuney, and our skilled union labor­ers all the best as they bring this project to a suc­cess­ful conclusion.

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  1. I’m look­ing for­ward to this final­ly hap­pen­ing too!

    # by Daniel Kirkdorffer :: October 25th, 2019 at 12:05 AM
  2. I am with you Daniel, lets get the show on the road!

    # by Coquitlam Towing :: November 5th, 2019 at 4:36 PM
  3. Will local work­ers be used to build the exten­sion? Hope­ful­ly. We need to use local hires when­ev­er possible.

    # by Roger Arndt :: November 12th, 2019 at 7:07 PM
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