The final countdown is on!
As of today, we are just one month away from the opening of Northgate Link, which will add three shiny, brand new light rail stations to Sound Transit’s central spine north of Lake Union and the Montlake Cut: one in the University District, one in the Roosevelt neighborhood, and one at Northgate.
These are the first new stations to join the system since Angle Lake opened five years ago in SeaTac, becoming the line’s southern terminus. All have been built with the lessons learned from the Husky Stadium (UW) and Capitol Hill stations.
For example, each station is equipped with heavy duty, “transit grade” escalators that can stand up to serious wear and tear, along with nonemergency stairs that go all the way down (or up) to the platform. Sound Transit also expedited the process of making adjacent property available for transit oriented development, so that affordable housing units right next to light rail can become homes for Seattleites more quickly. Notably, a project at Roosevelt is nearing completion, and will welcome tenants not long after the station opens.
This evening, Sound Transit held an event at the Northgate Station to honor all of the workers who have helped build this crucial new multimodal transportation infrastructure. Representatives of media outlets got a chance to speak directly with several workers whose labor have gotten Sound Transit to where it is today. You can watch all of the interviews back to back right here:
Afterwards, reporters walked up to the mezzanine and platform with Sound Transit staff, where four car trains (including both Siemens and Kinkisharyo consists) can be seen pulling in and out of the station every few minutes as operators and managers complete final testing for revenue service next month.
During our tour, we were able to glimpse SDOT’s mostly completed pedestrian and bicycle bridge over Interstate 5, as well. The bridge connects directly to the mezzanine level of the new station, making it easy to get to or from North Seattle College from Seattle’s newest big multimodal transit hub, which is adjacent to the Northgate complex on the east side of the interstate.
Sound Transit says that all northbound trains are now continuing on past UW to U District, Roosevelt, and Northgate in preparation for the big day on October 2nd, which will mark the beginning of a new era for mobility in our region, as high capacity transit reaches Link’s originally conceived northern terminus.
“The sight of trains running at regular intervals is a reminder of just how close we are to the opening of the Northgate Link extension,” said Sound Transit CEO Peter Rogoff in a September 1st statement. “Starting October 2, everyone will be able to enjoy fast, traffic-free rides from Northgate to downtown Seattle and beyond.”
“During simulated service, most riders won’t notice any differences during testing, but UW Station riders will notice some small changes,” the agency says.
“Instead of using both tracks to board trains, riders will board at the southbound track only and the northbound track will become drop-off only.”
“Trips between Capitol Hill and UW will also be a little faster, as trains will no longer slow down to switch tracks just south of UW.”
Sound Transit is also using the Northgate Link opening to begin a rebranding exercise, which will entail phasing out its “Link” and “Sounder” monikers in favor of letters and numbers. Sounder North is slated to become the N Line, Sounder South will be referred to as the S Line, the Tacoma Link streetcar will become the T Line, and the current Link light rail mainline will become the 1 Line.
The transition will take time.
Even the news release announcing the changes was titled “Simulated service begins on Northgate Link segment ahead of Oct. 2 opening,” showing that Sound Transit itself hasn’t given up on Link just yet.
It remains a good name, and it’s unlikely to ever completely go away, because numbers are simply not as memorable as names are.
The completion of Northgate Link marks the end of Sound Transit’s work to deliver the light rail system that was originally proposed to voters as part of “Sound Move” in 1996. It took twenty-five years to get it all planned and built, but it’s here at last, and it has been built to last. Importantly, we won’t have to wait another five years for the next new stations to join the system, as Sound Transit plans to inaugurate service on East Link (Line 2) in just two years.
Congratulations to everyone who had a hand in getting Northgate Link to where it is today! We’re delighted to see the progress and look forward to covering the station opening here on the Cascadia Advocate when October rolls around.