NPI's Cascadia Advocate

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

Saturday, October 2nd, 2021

Travel Light! Northgate Link opens to riders in a watershed moment for mobility in Seattle

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.

Northgate Station on Opening Day 2021

Rid­ers exit a Line 1 train at North­gate Sta­tion on the first day of ser­vice to U Dis­trict, Roo­sevelt, and North­gate (Pho­to: Andrew Villeneuve/NPI)

“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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  1. […] When Sound Tran­sit’s beau­ti­ful new North­gate, Roo­sevelt, and U Dis­trict Sta­tions ope…, the SeaT­ac-to-North­­gate high capac­i­ty tran­sit spine orig­i­nal­ly envi­sioned back in the 1990s final­ly became a reality. […]

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