Sound Transit Northgate Link LRT Slated for October Debut

Written by William C. Vantuono, Editor-in-Chief
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Sound Transit’s 4.3-mile Northgate Link light rail extension is expected to open to passenger service on Oct. 2. 2021.

Northgate, Sound Transit said, “is expected to come in under budget.” The project’s $1.9 billion baseline budget includes a $615 million credit agreement under the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA), “which provided significant long-term savings for regional taxpayers through reduced borrowing costs.” 

Voters approved the Northgate Link extension in 2008 as part of the Sound Transit 2 ballot measure. Construction began in 2012 following six years of planning. Twin boring machines began tunneling in 2014, completing 3.5-mile twin tunnels in 2016. Guideway construction was completed in 2018 and rail installation in 2019. Construction of all three stations was substantially complete at the beginning of 2021, and since January, light rail vehicles have been operating across the alignment to test the catenary traction power and signal systems.

In addition to an elevated station at Northgate, trains will stop at new underground stations serving Seattle’s U District and Roosevelt neighborhoods. Except for 0.8 miles of elevated track at Northgate, the 4.3-mile extension is in subway.

“The new extension will offer riders reliable, traffic-free trips of only 14 minutes between Northgate and downtown Seattle,” Sound Transit said. “We are working with the region’s transit providers on plans for having the opening coincide with fall service changes on ST Express, King County Metro Transit and Community Transit bus routes. In some cases, bus routes are planned to be modified to allow riders to connect with congestion-free Link service.”

“The opening of Link to Northgate is very well timed with our region’s long-awaited shift back toward normal life,” said Sound Transit CEO Peter Rogoff, a featured speaker at the Railway Age/Railway Track & Structures Virtual Light Rail Conference on April 22. “Our region has been through a brutal year, and we are thrilled to give our riders and taxpayers the opportunity to celebrate a major expansion of transit options. This project has been able to advance during a pandemic through the extraordinary efforts of our project staff, construction workforce, and our contractors. Great care needed to be taken to protect the health of every worker and their families while achieving each project milestone. Opening day will provide an opportunity for us to celebrate their dedication.”

“With Northgate’s completion, Sound Transit will enter an exciting period of opening major light rail extensions every year through 2024, nearly tripling the region’s light rail system from 22 miles to 62 miles,” said Sound Transit Board Chair and University Place Mayor Kent Keel. “This drumbeat of progress will extend service to Tacoma’s Hilltop in 2022, East King County in 2023 and Lynnwood and Federal Way in 2024. It will position us to keep building to complete voter-approved extensions to Tacoma, Everett, West Seattle, Ballard, DuPont and other destinations across the region.”

 “This milestone will transform commutes and communities, and further demonstrate the power of light rail to whisk riders to their destinations quickly, sustainably, and absolutely reliably,” said Sound Transit Board Vice Chair and King County Executive Dow Constantine. “King County Metro Transit will expand Northgate Link’s benefits by tying local bus routes with stations, so thousands of commuters can simply skip the daily Ship Canal Bridge bottleneck.”

“Our City is under construction before our eyes, and investments like light rail will be transformational for North Seattle,” said Sound Transit Board Member and Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan. “We are building a more connected city that has safe, affordable, and reliable options for people walking, rolling, taking transit, and biking, no matter where you live.”

“With the opening of Link service to Northgate, light rail gets 4.3 miles closer to Snohomish County Current Community Transit and Sound Transit bus routes that get bogged down in congestion will instead connect with congestion-free light rail,” said Sound Transit Board Vice Chair and Everett City Councilmember Paul Roberts. “The further Link extension to Lynnwood is already under construction and will serve thousands more Snohomish riders when it opens just three years from now. During that time, Sound Transit will be advancing its plans to extend service to Everett.”

“The Northgate Link light rail extension will open in tandem with the NHL Seattle’s new training facility, positioning the area for an explosive economic recovery,” said Sound Transit Board Member and Seattle City Council Member Debora Juarez. “Many of the training facility’s 800,000 annual visitors will share the light rail with North Seattle College students traveling downtown to start their new careers in technology, engineering, medicine, and business. Access to opportunity is everything, and a well-connected North End benefits all of Seattle.”

“Sound Transit’s infrastructure investments will not only continue transforming the way people travel but will continue to support thousands of workers in family-wage jobs,” said Mark Riker, Labor Liaison to the Sound Transit Board and Executive Secretary of the Washington State Building and Construction Trades Council. “So far this one project has provided almost 5 million labor hours, nearly a third of them worked by people of color. Sound Transit’s continuing expansions are truly critical for our region’s economic recovery.”

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