Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Seattle LRT to debut July 18

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Seattle will join U.S. light rail transit ranks on Saturday, July 18, when Sound Transit’s 14-mile, $2.44 billion Central Link light rail service commences, Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels has announced.

The long-awaited service, under federal funding agreements, is supposed to commence on July 3, but Seattle is fearful of possible problems related to the July 4 weekend, which could tax police and other municipal services.

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Sound Transit officials are planning for 100,000 riders July 18; the agency plans to run 14 trains with at least 28 of its 35 cars and will have live entertainment at stations. Rides will be free on the two inaugural weekend days, July 18 and 19.

Link initially will run between Westlake Station, at the north end of downtown Seattle, and Tukwila International Boulevard. A 1.6-mile extension to Sea-Tac Airport is scheduled to be added in December, with buses set to connect the Tukwilla station to the airport until that time.

Officials expect 26,000 riders a day once Link runs to the airport, though less than that between July and December, said Michael Williams, Sound Transit's light rail activation manager. Service is scheduled to run to the University of Washington in 2016, a $1.7 billion project. Sound Transit anticipates 45,000 LRT riders a day by 2020.