An aerial view of the Northgate Link light rail station
The Northgate Link light rail station, photographed from the air one month before its October 2nd opening (Photo: Andrew Villeneuve/NPI)

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.

SDOT's pedestrian and bicycle bridge at Northgate
Look­ing south towards down­town Seat­tle from North­gate, with the Seat­tle Depart­ment of Trans­porta­tion’s big con­tri­bu­tion to the North­gate Sta­tion project front and cen­ter: a pedes­tri­an and bicy­cle bridge across Inter­state 5 (Pho­to: Andrew Villeneuve/NPI)

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.

About the author

Andrew Villeneuve is the founder and executive director of the Northwest Progressive Institute, as well as the founder of NPI's sibling, the Northwest Progressive Foundation. He has worked to advance progressive causes for over two decades as a strategist, speaker, author, and organizer. Andrew is also a cybersecurity expert, a veteran facilitator, a delegate to the Washington State Democratic Central Committee, and a member of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps.

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