Early this morning, in the quiet pre-dawn hours before sunup, Sound Transit opened the doors to three new light rail stations north of Lake Union and the Montlake Cut, completing a twenty-five year effort to bring high capacity, high frequency, and high quality transit service to Seattle’s Northgate neighborhood.
The inauguration of revenue service on Northgate Link marks the end of the work to deliver the original Sound Move plan approved by voters in 1996, which called for an initial light rail line running from SeaTac to Northgate.
That line, initially dubbed “Central Link,” ultimately ended up getting built and opening in stages rather than all at once. The first stage opened in July of 2009, and consisted of twelve stations in Seattle and Tukwila.
Sound Transit then added four more stations: SeaTac in December 2009 (Airport Link), Capitol Hill and University of Washington in March 2016 (University Link), and a second SeaTac station in September 2016 (Angle Lake Link).
Today’s additions are the most new stations the region has seen simultaneously open at once since the first stage all the way back in 2009.
“This is a historic day and the start of three years that will transform how people get around our region,” said Sound Transit Chair Kent Keel. “Northgate Link will let thousands of riders get to their destinations on time without sitting in horrendous traffic. We are able to celebrate this milestone thanks to support from Federal Transit Administration, our congressional delegation and the regional voters who approved building a world-class transit system for our growing communities.”
“The opening of Northgate Link is a great leap forward for Puget Sound commuters, the first of many leaps forward for Sound Transit in the coming years,” said Sound Transit CEO Peter Rogoff. “As Sound Transit looks to nearly triple our light rail network in just the next three years, we are thankful for the hard work and dedication of staff and the construction workforce in achieving this monumental feat in the middle of a pandemic.”
Owing to the significance of the occasion, the agency’s advance news release officially commemorating the beginning of revenue service to Northgate Link incorporated quotes from over a dozen leaders:
- Governor Jay Inslee
- U.S. Senator Patty Murray
- U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell
- U.S. Representative Pramila Jayapal
- U.S. Representative Rick Larsen
- FTA Administrator Nuria Fernandez
- King County Executive Dow Constantine
- Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan
- Everett City Council Member Paul Roberts
- Seattle City Councilmember Debora Juarez
- Muckleshoot Indian Tribe’s Vice Chairman Donny Stevenson
- Mark Riker, Labor Liaison to the Sound Transit Board and Executive Secretary of the Washington State Building and Construction Trades Council
The agency held a speaking ceremony at the Northgate Station yesterday to celebrate the completion of the project, which was followed by a preview ride on a train that carried representatives of NPI and other local media outlets in addition to elected leaders, Sound Transit staff, and contractor personnel.
Regular users of the UW/Husky Stadium and Capitol Hill stations will notice some important ingress and egress improvements in these three new stations.
All were built with nonemergency stairs that go all the way down (or up) to the station platform, as well as heavy duty “transit grade” escalators.
U District and Roosevelt are underground stations designed for light rail that feel like siblings to the University of Washington, Capitol Hill, and Beacon Hill stations, which were all designed for light rail rather than light rail and buses.
Northgate is an aerial station that feels like a sibling to Tukwila International Boulevard, SeaTac, and Angle Lake Stations down at the southern end of the line. (And perhaps Mount Baker, as well, which is located at the system’s midpoint.)
Sound Transit has been running simulated service to Northgate for some time now, ensuring that operators are familiar with the new station and trackage, and allowing the agency to obtain its final permits and certifications.
This video, taken from the air last month, shows a train pulling into Northgate Station on a warm September day during the final weeks of simulated service.
And these photo galleries depict the new stations before they opened to riders.
Now that the stations are open, it’s your turn, Seattle! You are now free to move about the city in ways you never were before. Line 1 is the rock solid link to downtown, Capitol Hill, and points south that Northgate, Roosevelt, and U District have long needed, but have simply had to get along without.
Like University Link, Northgate Link is going to transform mobility in Seattle.
And quickly, too: Metro and Community Transit debuted a host of scheduling and route changes this morning in tandem with the station openings, to take advantage of the city’s newest multimodal transit hubs.
To see what routes are affected, visit this page on King County Metro’s website and this page on Community Transit’s website.
Congratulations to Sound Transit and its contractor partners (JCM Northlink, Hoffmann Construction, Absher Construction, Stacy and Witbeck, and Mass Electric) on this hugely consequential accomplishment. The Sound Move vision has been realized, at long last! Here’s to many happy trips today, tomorrow, and in the years ahead that will be made possible by Northgate Link.
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