South Bellevue Station, view three (East Link aerial tour)
The South Bellevue Station from the south. This angle clearly shows Bellevue Way and the elevated light rail tracks. Downtown Bellevue is visible in the background. (Photo: Andrew Villeneuve/NPI)

Sound Tran­sit has, at last, fixed a date for the inau­gu­ra­tion of ser­vice on the Red­mond to Belle­vue por­tion of its long-await­ed East Link exten­sion: April 27th!

On that day, the pub­lic will be able to start using the 2 Line to get around the East­side, and enjoy com­mute times between Red­mond and Belle­vue’s down­towns that are half as long as a trip on Metro’s RapidRide Line B.

The debut of light rail in NPI’s home­town is a huge mile­stone and one we’ve been eager­ly await­ing since this orga­ni­za­tion’s ear­ly years. The vot­ers of this region backed the East Link project in 2008 as part of Sound Tran­sit’s Phase II sys­tem expan­sion, and it’s tak­en over a decade and a half to design and build.

But our patience is being rewarded.

Open­ing Day will soon be here, bring­ing high capac­i­ty tran­sit ser­vice to Over­lake, Bel-Red, the Spring Dis­trict, down­town Belle­vue, Sur­rey Downs, and south Belle­vue. On and after April 27th, here’s what East­siders and vis­i­tors to East King Coun­ty can expect, accord­ing to Sound Tran­sit’s com­mu­ni­ca­tion team:

  • Ser­vice will run from 5:30 AM to 9:30 PM sev­en days a week and will con­nect with the region­al tran­sit net­work at South Belle­vue, Belle­vue Down­town and Red­mond Tech­nol­o­gy stations.
  • Park­ing is avail­able at South Belle­vue, BelRed and Red­mond Tech­nol­o­gy sta­tions. Sev­er­al sta­tions are acces­si­ble from the Eas­trail cor­ri­dor and the region­al trail net­work. Secure bike park­ing is avail­able at every station.
  • Every­one is invit­ed to cel­e­brate open­ing day with Sound Tran­sit and its part­ners on Sat­ur­day, April 27th. The fes­tiv­i­ties will start with a rib­bon cut­ting cer­e­mo­ny at Belle­vue Down­town Sta­tion at 10 AM. Link ser­vice will begin oper­at­ing after the rib­bon cut­ting at approx­i­mate­ly 11 AM.
  • Fol­low­ing the rib­bon cut­ting and through­out the day, all eight of the new sta­tions will fea­ture dif­fer­ent activ­i­ties, exhibits and enter­tain­ment. Any­one who par­tic­i­pates in a Discover.Stamp.Win activ­i­ty and vis­its all eight sta­tions will be eli­gi­ble to enter a prize drawing.

“The open­ing of the 2 Line on the East­side took the vision, cre­ativ­i­ty and tire­less work of many peo­ple to make good on the promise we made to vot­ers in 2008,” said Sound Tran­sit Board­mem­ber and King Coun­ty Coun­cilmem­ber Clau­dia Bal­duc­ci. “I pushed to open this 6.5‑mile, 8‑station starter line to con­nect some of the region’s largest employ­ers, grow­ing neigh­bor­hoods, and incred­i­ble des­ti­na­tions. Today we’re set­ting the stage for the Eastside’s con­tin­ued trans­for­ma­tion and con­nect­ing peo­ple to oppor­tu­ni­ty now. I can’t wait to ride it!”

“With the open­ing of the 2 Line on the East­side this spring, and our major expan­sion into Sno­homish Coun­ty this fall, we’re bring­ing the con­ve­nience of light rail to hun­dreds of thou­sands more peo­ple across the region. That means more peo­ple will be able to use Link light rail to skip the traf­fic and park­ing has­sles and get to school, work, games, con­certs and more, inex­pen­sive­ly and on time, every time,” said King Coun­ty Exec­u­tive Dow Con­stan­tine, the chair of ST’s board.

“We are thrilled to cel­e­brate the 2 Line open­ing at Belle­vue Down­town Sta­tion,” said Belle­vue May­or Lynne Robin­son. “Bellevue’s part­ner­ship with Sound Tran­sit has been guid­ed by a shared vision to improve mobil­i­ty and access for every­one who lives, works and plays in Belle­vue and the region. This open­ing brings us even clos­er to a future with a mul­ti­tude of effec­tive trans­porta­tion options to get where you need to go on the East­side and beyond.”

“Light rail’s arrival to Red­mond is mon­u­men­tal, as our region is under­go­ing rapid trans­for­ma­tion,” said Red­mond May­or Angela Bir­ney, who recent­ly joined the Sound Tran­sit Board along with King Coun­ty Coun­cilmem­ber Gir­may Zahi­lay. “We are grate­ful for our fed­er­al, state and local part­ners who have been with us for decades to get to this point, as well as to our vot­ers who made this path a real­i­ty. I look for­ward to see­ing our com­mu­ni­ty cel­e­brate on open­ing day and take a ride on this easy, traf­fic-free con­nec­tion between Red­mond and Bellevue.”

“The 2 Line is the prod­uct of the sus­tained com­mit­ment of project part­ners and com­mu­ni­ty mem­bers, and years of hard work by Sound Tran­sit staff and con­trac­tors,” said Sound Tran­sit Inter­im CEO Goran Sparrman.

“Hav­ing worked on the East Link project with the City of Belle­vue in the plan­ning phase, I’m excit­ed to see the project mov­ing toward opening.”

When it opens, the 2 Line won’t serve its two west­ern­most sta­tions (Jud­kins Park, Mer­cer Island) or con­nect to the 1 Line, because con­trac­tors are fix­ing defects on the align­ment between Mer­cer Island and Seat­tle. Because Sound Tran­sit built a train yard in Belle­vue (the Oper­a­tions & Main­te­nance Facil­i­ty East), it does­n’t need work­ing tracks across the lake to start up ser­vice in Red­mond and Bellevue.

Sound Tran­sit hopes to add the west­ern­most sta­tions to the sys­tem in 2025. And by that time, two new east­ern sta­tions should also be ready to make their debut — Mary­moor and down­town Red­mond. Those four sta­tions will com­plete the 2 Line, mak­ing it pos­si­ble to trav­el by foot and train from NPI head­quar­ters into down­town Seat­tle and many oth­er des­ti­na­tions, like SeaT­ac Air­port or the UW.

The agency has been sim­u­lat­ing rev­enue ser­vice between Red­mond Tech­nol­o­gy Sta­tion and South Belle­vue for sev­er­al weeks now, and to our knowl­edge, there have been no major issues. There are many cool van­tage points where you can see trains glid­ing along through the East­side at reg­u­lar inter­vals, and you can also see them from parts of Inter­state 405 and State Route 520, because the align­ment either cross­es or runs next to those highways.

If you’re as excit­ed as we are about East Link’s debut, you may be inter­est­ed in our bird’s eye tour of the East Link sta­tions and our Trainspot­ting series, show­ing Link trains in action in Belle­vue and Redmond.

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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