Sound Transit today announced that the Northgate Link light rail extension will open to passenger service on Saturday, October 2.
The new extension, which is moving forward under budget, will offer riders reliable, traffic-free trips of only 14 minutes between Northgate and downtown Seattle. In addition to the elevated station at Northgate, trains will stop at new underground stations serving Seattle’s U District and Roosevelt neighborhoods. Of the 4.3-mile extension, all but 0.8 miles of elevated track at Northgate are located underground.
“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.”
Sound Transit is 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.
Community Transit's six University District routes (800 series) will truncate at Northgate Station when light rail opens there. It is a six-minute trip from Northgate to the U District Link station, which will save many commuters time. Details about schedules for those routes will come out this summer.
“With the opening of Link service to Northgate, light rail gets 4.3 miles closer to Snohomish County. 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 County 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 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. “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.”
Voters approved the Northgate Link extension in 2008 as part of the Sound Transit 2 ballot measure. Construction on the project began in 2012 following six years of planning. Twin boring machines began tunneling in 2014, completing the 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 last January, light rail test trains have been operating across the alignment to test the overhead electrical power system and train signal system.
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. The final project cost is expected to come in under budget.