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.
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.
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.
“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.