Transit Briefs: Sound Transit, Amtrak, CHSRA

Written by Carolina Worrell, Senior Editor
Sound Transit photo

Sound Transit photo

Sound Transit’s Link 2 Line gets closer to opening on the Eastside. Also, Amtrak completes upgrades at Selma-Smithfield Union Depot; and the California High-Speed Rail Authority (CHSRA) takes home a national honor for the award-winning student engagement “I Will Ride” program.

Sound Transit

According to Sound Transit, anticipation is building as Link light rail vehicles traverse the 6.6-mile route between South Bellevue and Redmond Technology stations doing daily practice runs in preparation for opening.

The agency, which does not have a service date to announce yet, provided the following video on Instagram of trains running on the Eastside.

In a few weeks, Sound Transit says:

  • “Link will serve eight new stations.
  • “Two-car trains will run every 10 minutes, 16 hours a day.
  • “Trips between South Bellevue and Redmond Technology stations will take 16 traffic-free minutes.
  • “You can take Link to work, medical appointments, and shopping and dining spots all over the Eastside, and connect to the regional transit network to get everywhere else.”

More information about the agency’s opening plans and how to ride the “East Link Starter Line,” as it unofficially has come to be known, is available here.


Amtrak, Selma town officials and the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) on Feb.14 announced that renovations at the Selma-Smithfield Union Depot are now complete. The $2.5 million project to improve the station is part of the ongoing and companywide commitment at Amtrak to “ensure a safe, efficient, and comfortable travel experience for customers with disabilities.”

The Amtrak Carolinian and Palmetto provide daily service to the depot at 500 East Railroad St. The Carolinian service is sponsored by NCDOT and operated by Amtrak and paid for through state funding and passenger fares and operates between New York and Charlotte. The Palmetto travels between New York and Savannah.

“Providing an accessible travel experience is a priority and we’re actively advancing construction, renovation, repair, and upgrade projects at stations across our national network,” said Amtrak Vice President Dr. David Handera. “We are pleased we delivered these improvements to the Selma-Smithfield Union Depot.”

At the depot, Amtrak says customers can access a new 325-foot-long concrete platform featuring additional lighting, guardrails and signage. The platform provides customers with a more accessible, sturdier surface, which includes a detectable warning system along the edge of the platform. The system is a hazard warning to alert customers who are blind or have low vision if they are close to the platform. The lighting also provides a brighter environment as customers board on and off the train.

Additional improvements include the creation of accessible pathways extending from the parking lot to the station and platform, and accessible parking spaces along Railroad Street and adjacent to the station for customers.

“It is exciting to see the investments being made in our North Carolina rail system.  The Town of Selma is thankful to see these ADA enhancements at out Historic Train Depot and the impressive visual improvements that have been made to this busy boarding platform,” said Selma Mayor Byron McAllister. “Thank you, Amtrak, for continuing to invest in and maintain this important piece of nationwide public transit.  We look forward to upgraded and increased Amtrak service through the Town of Selma.”

According to Amtrak, the national passenger railroad company has invested more than $800 million since 2011 in accessibility upgrades and improvement projects at 117 stations across the national network. The improvements include repairs and upgrades to platforms, ramps and sidewalks, and renovations to entranceways and restrooms, with 20 stations brought into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) last year. Another 35 stations are targeted for completion this fiscal year at a forecasted investment of $165 million.

“Our program is advancing 137 station designs and 43 station construction projects as part of Amtrak’s ongoing commitment to providing accessibility by working toward 100% completion by 2029,” the company stated in a release.

“Working with Amtrak and local partners to ensure stations have the facilities and amenities needed to support success and growth is key,” said NCDOT Rail Division Director Jason Orthner. “Upgrades like these at the Selma-Smithfield Station promote safe, accessible and convenient travel that further enhance the passenger rail experience in N.C.”


CHSRA on Feb. 14 announced that it took home a national honor this week for the award-winning student engagement I Will Ride program. The American Public Transit Association (APTA) recognized the program as 2023’s Best Comprehensive Marketing and Communications Educational Campaign for Workforce Development during its annual AdWheel Awards this week in New Orleans.

The annual AdWheel Awards recognize the “exceptional marketing and communications efforts of APTA’s members across the country.”

“California’s transit future will be built on the backbone of interregional connectivity that is the high-speed rail project,” said APTA President and CEO Paul P. Skoutelas. “This system is for and by the next generation of mass transit riders, thousands of whom have heard directly from the Authority. I applaud I Will Ride’s work and this well-deserved AdWheel recognition.”

In 2023, the program won the prestigious Rosa Parks Diversity Leadership Award from the Women’s Transportation Seminar (WTS) Sacramento chapter.

CHSRA photo

Examples of I Will Ride at work can be seen at Fresno State’s first annual K-12 Railroad Model Competition and a recent construction tour with high school students from the Mineta Transportation Institute (MTI) summer program at San Jose State University. These, CHSRA says, are just two small peeks into the Authority’s award-winning efforts to bring their futures into sharper focus.

I Will Ride is about connecting students to information and career opportunities,” said CHSRA Outreach and Student Engagement Specialist Yaqeline Castro. “With our outreach having steadily increased since the relaunch of the program in 2020, we look forward to continued engagement with the next generation of transportation professionals.”

Fast Facts about I Will Ride in 2023 include:

  • Reached 4,479 students throughout California.
  • Construction and Regional Alignment Tours.
  • University Capstone Projects.
  • Classroom and Club Presentations for elementary to university students.
  • Outreach Tables.
  • Networking Sessions.
  • Webinars.
  • Mentorship.

Meanwhile, CHSRA has begun work to extend the 119 miles currently under construction to 171 miles of future electrified high-speed rail from Merced to Bakersfield.

There are more than 25 active construction sites in California’s Central Valley, with CHSRA having also fully environmentally cleared 422 miles of the high-speed rail program from the Bay Area to Los Angeles County.

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