Link Light Rail


Link Light Rail

Infobox Public transit
name = Link Light Rail


imagesize = 200px
locale = Seattle metropolitan area
transit_type = Light rail
began_operation = "Tacoma Link:"
August 22 2003
"Central Link:"
est. 2009
system_length = 17.3
lines = 2
stations = 9 existing
10 under construction
ridership = 3,900American Public Transportation Association, [http://www.apta.com/research/stats/ridership/riderep/documents/08q1lr.pdf Light Rail Transit Ridership Report] , First Quarter 2008.]
track_gauge =
operator = Sound Transit

Sound Transit Link Light Rail is a rapid transit project under construction for the Greater Seattle region. It currently consists of two lines, Tacoma Link, which is in service now, and Central Link, which is scheduled to be completed in 2009. [cite web
title=Link Light Rail Projects
publisher=Sound Transit
url=http://soundtransit.org/x1171.xml
accessdate=2007-06-04
] The University Link extension, extending Central Link northward from downtown Seattle to the University of Washington, is approved and slated to begin construction in late 2008 with service starting in 2016.

If a November 2008 ballot measure, Proposition 1, passes, it will extend Link northward via Northgate to Lynnwood (with planning and property acquisition to support later extension to Everett), south to Redondo Heights Park & Ride in Federal Way (with route planning to support later extension to Tacoma), and east via Mercer Island and Bellevue to Microsoft main campus in Redmond.

History

Early years

In 1996, voters in King, Pierce, and Snohomish counties approved increases in sales taxes and vehicle excise taxes to pay for a US$3.9 billion transit package that included $1.7 billion for a 25 mile light rail system. The system included a line in Tacoma, Washington and another line from the University District in north Seattle to Sea-Tac Airport south of Seattle, originally planned to open in 2006. [cite news | url=http://archives.seattletimes.nwsource.com/cgi-bin/texis.cgi/web/vortex/display?slug=2358535&date=19961106&query=light+rail | title=Voters Back Transit Plan On Fourth Try | publisher=The Seattle Times | author=David Schaefer | date=1996-11-08 | accessdate=2007-02-26] Two years later the recently created Sound Transit revealed an environmental impact study that increased the cost of the project to US$2.2 billion and added three miles to the line by adding connections to Northgate. [cite news | url=http://archives.seattletimes.nwsource.com/cgi-bin/texis.cgi/web/vortex/display?slug=2787123&date=19981204&query=Sound+Transit+Light+Rail | title=Big Plans For Light Rail -- Sound Transit Suggests 24-Mile Route From Seatac To Northgate | publisher=The Seattle Times | author=David Schaefer | date=1998-12-04 | accessdate=2007-02-24] However, the EIS was quickly met with objections from the poorer neighborhoods south of Seattle in Rainier Valley, Seattle, Washington that complained that the plan unfairly impacted their neighborhoods by having the line running on the surface instead of below ground like much of the rest of the route starting at Beacon Hill. [cite news |url=http://archives.seattletimes.nwsource.com/cgi-bin/texis.cgi/web/vortex/display?slug=2940938&date=19990127&query=Sound+Transit+light+rail | title=The Light-Rail Transit Plan -- On Wrong Track? -- Many People Who Live And Work Along Martin Luther King Jr. Way South Believe The Current Transit Plan Unfairly Favors Residents Of North Seattle | publisher=The Seattle Times | author=Tom Brune | coauthors=Barbara A. Serrano, Tan Vinh | date=1999-01-27 | accessdate=2007-02-26] Tukwila city leaders were also concerned that route bypassed the important shopping district around Southcenter Mall. [cite news |url=http://archives.seattletimes.nwsource.com/cgi-bin/texis.cgi/web/vortex/display?slug=2938495&date=19990113&query=Sound+Transit+light+rail | title=Hearings To Begin On Light-Rail Line | publisher=The Seattle Times | author=Lisa Pemberton-Butler | date=1999-01-13 | accessdate=2007-02-27]

Dark years

Beginning in early 1999, the light rail program became beset with problems that mired Sound Transit and local governments in political ire. In late February 1999, a financial analysis stated that building light rail out as far as Northgate might not be possible for over a dozen years due to decreases in the amount of federal grant money available to local transit authorities and Seattle-North King County having used so much of its local taxing authority and ability to borrow money to pay for light rail. [cite news | url=http://archives.seattletimes.nwsource.com/cgi-bin/texis.cgi/web/vortex/display?slug=2945777&date=19990223&query=Sound+Transit+light+rail | title=Light Rail To Northgate? Maybe Not For 12 Years -- Report Says Finances, Limited Taxing Authority Might Delay Expansion | publisher=The Seattle Times | author=David Schaefer | date=1999-02-23 | accessdate=2007-02-27] A vote by the Sound Transit board on February 25 1999, that made only minor modifications to the route, did little to ease the concerns Seattle's southern neighborhoods and northern and southern suburbs. [cite news | url=http://archives.seattletimes.nwsource.com/cgi-bin/texis.cgi/web/vortex/display?slug=2946359&date=19990226&query=Sound+Transit+light+rail | title=Rail Route Creates Hard Feelings -- Northern Cities, Rainier Valley, Tukwila Feel Slighted | publisher=The Seattle Times | author=David Schaefer | date=1999-02-26 | accessdate=2007-02-27] Increasing land values and the changes to the route voted in by the board added hundreds of millions of dollars to the cost, [cite news | url=http://archives.seattletimes.nwsource.com/cgi-bin/texis.cgi/web/vortex/display?slug=2964483&date=19990603&query=Sound+Transit+light+rail | title=Rising Costs For Light Rail May Require Further Cuts | publisher=The Seattle Times | author=Kery Murakami | date=1999-06-03 | accessdate=2007-02-27] requiring cuts to the plan to bring the project back to within budget. [cite news | url=http://archives.seattletimes.nwsource.com/cgi-bin/texis.cgi/web/vortex/display?slug=2969475&date=19990701&query=light+rail | title=Sound Transit Is $216 Million Short -- Project's Initial Phase May Be Scaled Back Further | publisher=The Seattle Times | author=Kery Murakami | date=1999-07-01 | accessdate=2007-02-27] The cuts were finalized in a November vote that deferred construction on two stations, to only partially build the station under Beacon Hill, and route modifications. [cite news | url=http://archives.seattletimes.nwsource.com/cgi-bin/texis.cgi/web/vortex/display?slug=2996198&date=19991119&query=%22light+rail%22 | title=A Milestone For Light Rail -- Regional Board Selects Station Sites, Alignment | publisher=The Seattle Times | author=Alex Fryer | date=1999-11-19 | accessdate=2007-02-27]

Differences between the University of Washington and Sound Transit over station locations, impacts from the route's running under several science buildings on the campus, and construction impact deferments threatened to delay the project and raise costs. [cite news | url=http://archives.seattletimes.nwsource.com/cgi-bin/texis.cgi/web/vortex/display?slug=4001808&date=20000128&query=%22light+rail%22 | title=All aboard? UW dickers on light rail | publisher=The Seattle Times | author=Roberto Sanchez | date=2000-01-28 | accessdate=2007-02-27] After months of negotiations, University regents and Sound Transit reached agreement in April 2000 with Sound Transit agreeing to install dampeners on the rails that run under the science buildings, air cushions to tables in the science buildings, and to mitigate environmental impacts due to construction and traffic impacts from having the station on university grounds. [cite news | url=http://archives.seattletimes.nwsource.com/cgi-bin/texis.cgi/web/vortex/display?slug=4014028&date=20000406&query=%22light+rail%22 | title=UW rail tunnel gets boost | publisher=The Seattle Times | author=Andrew Garber | date=2000-04-06 | accessdate=2007-02-27] However, in November, the Sound Transit board voted to defer construction on the tunnel to the university when the construction estimate came in $171 million over budget. This news prompted concerns that Sound Transit could lose out on $500 million in federal grants, but King County Executive Ron Sims said he had been in contact with FTA officials who said the grant was still possible. [cite news |url=http://archives.seattletimes.nwsource.com/cgi-bin/texis.cgi/web/vortex/display?slug=4053431&date=20001117&query=%22light+rail%22 | title=Price puts tunnel on hold | publisher=The Seattle Times | author=Andrew Garber | date=2000-11-17 | accessdate=2007-02-27] This announcement coincided with the resignation of light rail's chief, Paul Bay. Two weeks later, Lyndon Wilson Jr., the man credited with turning around Portland's MAX Light Rail project, was tapped as the systems interim director. [cite news | url=http://archives.seattletimes.nwsource.com/cgi-bin/texis.cgi/web/vortex/display?slug=TT0T2FLEV&date=20001129&query=Lyndon+Wilson+Sound+Transit | title=Sound Transit taps Portlander | publisher=The Seattle Times | author=Cindy Zetts | date=2000-11-29 | accessdate=2007-02-28]

Within days of Wilson's arrival, more bad news came out as new estimates from Sound Transit staff increased the cost of the 21-mile project from $1.9 billion to $3.8 billion and added three years to the construction time. The report cited the frequent changes made to the route in order to appease community members, third-parties, and the wishes of board members and the ambitious construction schedule as reasons for the cost increase. [cite news | url=http://archives.seattletimes.nwsource.com/cgi-bin/texis.cgi/web/vortex/display?slug=TTGI2KF2J&date=20001213&query=%22light+rail%22 | title=Light-rail cost soars $1 billion | publisher=The Seattle Times | date=2000-12-13 | accessdate=2007-02-28] Just days later, Capitol Hill business and civic leaders withdrew their support from the project due to concerns that two years of construction needed to build the station on Capitol Hill would drive customers away from area businesses and force those businesses to close. [cite news | url=http://archives.seattletimes.nwsource.com/cgi-bin/texis.cgi/web/vortex/display?slug=TTNO2NPGA&date=20001221&query=%22light+rail%22 | title=Transit doubt runs deep on Capitol Hill | publisher=The Seattle Times | author=Tim Boyer | date=2000-12-21 | accessdate=2007-02-28]

In January 2001, the Sound Transit board accepted a $500 million grant from the FTA even though the FTA had not completed the review of the project it started when the cost overruns were announced in December and had not offered Sound Transit the grant. The decision effectively locked Sound Transit into building a 7-mile route from Lander Street to the University of Washington. [cite news | url=http://archives.seattletimes.nwsource.com/cgi-bin/texis.cgi/web/vortex/display?slug=sound12m&date=20010112&query=%22light+rail%22 | title=Sound Transit votes to take $500 million | publisher=The Seattle Times | author=Andrew Garber | date=2001-01-12 | accessdate=2007-02-28] Days later, the chairman of the House Appropriations transportation subcommittee, Hal Rogers (R-KY) sent a letter to Transportation Secretary Rodney Slater saying his committee could not approve the grant and requesting a review by the Inspector General. Despite this, Sound Transit was still optimistic that the grant would be approved later that week. [ cite news | url=http://archives.seattletimes.nwsource.com/cgi-bin/texis.cgi/web/vortex/display?slug=sound18m&date=20010118&query=%22light+rail%22 | title=Congressman wants to delay light-rail money | publisher=The Seattle Times | author=Andrew Garber | date=2001-01-18 | accessdate=2007-02-28] Representative Jennifer Dunn (R-Bellevue), Washington's ranking House Republican, voiced her support for the independent audit, but stopped short of calling for the FTA to not approve the grant. [cite news | url=http://archives.seattletimes.nwsource.com/cgi-bin/texis.cgi/web/vortex/display?slug=sound19m&date=20010119&query=%22light+rail%22 | title=Dunn backs rail-project review | publisher=The Seattle Times | author=Andrew Garber | date=2001-01-19 | accessdate=2007-02-28] Despite these questions, on his last day as Transportation Secretary, Rodney Slater, signed the agreement granting Sound Transit $500 million in annual installments through 2006. [cite news | url=http://archives.seattletimes.nwsource.com/cgi-bin/texis.cgi/web/vortex/display?slug=sound20m&date=20010120&query=%22light+rail%22 | title=Half-billion allocated for Sound Transit | publisher=The Seattle Times | author=Andrew Garber | date=2001-01-20 | accessdate=2007-02-28]

However, the grant approval still was not enough to prevent the resignation of Sound Transit's executive director, Bob White. White cited a need for new leadership to restore public confidence in the agency. [cite news | url=http://archives.seattletimes.nwsource.com/cgi-bin/texis.cgi/web/vortex/display?slug=webtransit23&date=20010123&query=%22light+rail%22 | title=Sound Transit executive director resigns | publisher=The Seattle Times | date=2001-01-23 | accessdate=2007-02-28]

March was another difficult month for the light rail project. On March 9, Sound Transit's citizen oversight committee criticized the agency's optimistic assumptions about building costs, its reliance on receiving an additional $931 million in federal grants, and that the agency was in danger of repeating prior mistakes. [cite news | url=http://archives.seattletimes.nwsource.com/cgi-bin/texis.cgi/web/vortex/display?slug=sound09m&date=20010309&query=%22light+rail%22 | title=Its own watchdog bites Sound Transit; panel fears light-rail budget unrealistic | publisher=The Seattle Times | author=Andrew Garber | date=2001-03-09 | accessdate=2007-02-28] The next day, Representative Rogers summoned Sound Transit and its opponents to Washington, D.C to testify in front of his subcommittee about the "problem" project. [cite news | url=http://archives.seattletimes.nwsource.com/cgi-bin/texis.cgi/web/vortex/display?slug=sound10m&date=20010310&query=%22light+rail%22 | title=Light rail labeled 'problem' project | publisher=The Seattle Times | author=Andrew Garber | date=2001-03-10 | accessdate=2007-02-28] By the end of March, Link light rail was in danger of losing its first installment of federal grant money as Rogers noted the project's local opposition, cost overruns, and reliance on record levels of federal money as troubling. [cite news | url=http://archives.seattletimes.nwsource.com/cgi-bin/texis.cgi/web/vortex/display?slug=sound30m&date=20010330&query=light+rail | title=Federal aid in jeopardy for light rail | author=Andrew Garber | publisher=The Seattle Times | date=2001-03-30 | accessdate=2007-04-21]

In April, the Seattle City Council's unwavering support started to falter when a proposal requesting a Sound Transit citizen panel to explore alternatives to light rail was proposed by Councilman Nick Licata. The proposal would have had little to no effect on Sound Transit's plans if it had passed in its proposed form, but by the time it passed the contents of the proposal had been replaced with language praising the agency and explaining the cost overruns as unavoidable and out of Sound Transit's control. [cite news | url=http://archives.seattletimes.nwsource.com/cgi-bin/texis.cgi/web/vortex/display?slug=sound04m&date=20010404&query=light+rail | title=Light rail survives attack: City Council rejects anti-Sound Transit move | author=Jim Brunner | publisher=The Seattle Times | date=2001-04-04 | accessdate=2007-04-21] Avoiding the City Council's attack was only a short term victory as the next date the US Inspector General's office recommended that federal funding be suspended until the agency is able to provide a final estimate for the project. The Inspector General's report also estimated the cost of the project at $4.1 billion, meaning the cost of the project had increased by $2.5 billion in seven months. [cite news | url=http://archives.seattletimes.nwsource.com/cgi-bin/texis.cgi/web/vortex/display?slug=inspector05m0&date=20010405&query=light+rail | title=Suspension of light-rail funds urged | author=Andrew Garber | publisher=The Seattle Times | date=2001-04-05 | accessdate=2007-04-21] The day after the IG's report brought a suspension of the $75 million federal grant for the next year, Sound Transit learned that the $50 million grant from the current year was also in danger. [cite news | url=http://archives.seattletimes.nwsource.com/cgi-bin/texis.cgi/web/vortex/display?slug=sound06m&date=20010406&query=light+rail | title=Sound Transit troubles, Day 2 | author=Andrew Garber | publisher=The Seattle Times | date=2001-04-06 | accessdate=2007-04-21]

Shortening of the line

On April 9, Mayor Paul Schell sent a letter requesting that due to the challenges facing the northern segment of the route (South Lander Street to the University District), Sound Transit should focus on building the southern fourteen miles of the line.cite news | url=http://archives.seattletimes.nwsource.com/cgi-bin/texis.cgi/web/vortex/display?slug=sound10m&date=20010410&query=light+rail | title=Schell: Put South End segment of light rail first | author=Andrew Garber | coauthors=Jim Brunners | publisher=The Seattle Times | date=2001-04-10 | accessdate=2007-04-21] Schell's proposal was supported by one of his mayoral election rivals, Greg Nickels, and King County Commissioner Ron Sims, but Sims also suggested continuing the line beyond South Lander and into the bus tunnel. [cite news | url=http://archives.seattletimes.nwsource.com/cgi-bin/texis.cgi/web/vortex/display?slug=sound11m&date=20010411&query=light+rail | title=Sims agrees: Start light rail in South End | author=Eric Pryne | publisher=The Seattle Times | date=2001-04-11 | accessdate=2007-04-21] However, Councilman Licata was of the opinion that Schell's proposal didn't go far enough because it did not consider scrapping light rail completely and focusing the money on carpool lanes and expanding the monorail.

Part of Schell's request was for the review board to find out if it would be possible to build the southern route without federal assistance, but within days Sound Transit's acting executive director said federal assistance would still be required, an opinion that was echoed by the acting light-rail director. [cite news | url=http://archives.seattletimes.nwsource.com/cgi-bin/texis.cgi/web/vortex/display?slug=sound12m&date=20010412&query=%22light+rail%22 | title=Federal help needed even if light rail starts south | publisher=The Seattle Times | author=Andrew Garber | date=2001-04-12 | accessdate=2007-04-27] The day after saying the southern route could not be built without federal money, Sound Transit admitted that its current plans for light rail was no longer feasible due to a decrease in the amount of money it expected to get from the federal government, which caused at least a $190 million shortfall. However, there was hope that with modifications to the route, stations, or the amount of tunneling the full 21 miles could still be built. [cite news | url=http://archives.seattletimes.nwsource.com/cgi-bin/texis.cgi/web/vortex/display?slug=sound13m0&date=20010413&query=%22light+rail%22 | title=Light rail can't be built as planned | publisher=The Seattle Times | author=Andrew Garber | date=2001-04-13 | accessdate=2007-04-27] By the end of the month, Sound Transit staffers revealed that it was unlikely that the whole project could be completed before the end of the decade, but some of it could be completed. [cite news | url=http://archives.seattletimes.nwsource.com/cgi-bin/texis.cgi/web/vortex/display?slug=sound27m&date=20010427&query=%22light+rail%22 | title=Light rail can't be finished by 2009 | publisher=The Seattle Times | author=Andrew Garber | date=2001-04-27 | accessdate=2007-04-27]

Despite all of the problems with cost overruns and schedule slippages related to the project, a poll conducted by Elway Research for The Seattle Times and Northwest Cable News between April 28 and May 1 revealed that only 40 percent of Puget Sound voters wanted to put a stop to a project, with 37 percent wanting to build a smaller line with existing funds, and 14 percent in favor of increasing taxes to pay for the full line. This contrasts with when Sound Move passed in 1996. At that time, 54 percent of Seattle residents favored stopping the project. [cite news | url=http://archives.seattletimes.nwsource.com/cgi-bin/texis.cgi/web/vortex/display?slug=transitpoll06m&date=20010506&query=%22light+rail%22 | title=Thin majority still backs some light rail | publisher=The Seattle Times | author=Susan Gilmore | date=2001-05-06 | accessdate=2007-04-27]

By the late May, Sound Transit's board began to seriously consider shortening the line, including what to do with the money allocated to light rail if it was scrapped. [cite news | url=http://archives.seattletimes.nwsource.com/cgi-bin/texis.cgi/web/vortex/display?slug=sound20m0&date=20010520&query=%22light+rail%22 | title=Light-rail talk grim: Time to cut losses? | author=Andrew Garber | publisher=The Seattle Times | date=2001-05-20 | accessdate=2007-06-10] Support in the board began to form around four alternative plans, two of which included a tunnel through Capitol Hill that divided the board, with Ron Sims saying "Taking us to Capitol Hill is fatal to any light-rail project". [cite news | url=http://archives.seattletimes.nwsource.com/cgi-bin/texis.cgi/web/vortex/display?slug=sound25m&date=20010525&query=%22light+rail%22 | title=Capitol Hill tunnel splits transit panel | author=Andrew Garber | publisher=The Seattle Times | date=2001-05-25 | accessdate=2007-06-10] Sims would later join a group of current and former community leaders sent a letter to the board urging them to develop a route through South Lake Union to avoid the tunnel through Capitol Hill. [cite news | url=http://archives.seattletimes.nwsource.com/cgi-bin/texis.cgi/web/vortex/display?slug=sound15m&date=20010615&query=%22light+rail%22 | title=Rail agency is urged to skip tunnel | author=Andrew Garber | publisher=The Seattle Times | date=2001-06-15 | accessdate=2007-06-10]

In June, it was announced that two key staff members would be leaving the project, the interim director, Lyndon Wilson, and chief engineer, Bill Houppermans. Two current staffers were chosen as interim replacements. [cite news | url=http://archives.seattletimes.nwsource.com/cgi-bin/texis.cgi/web/vortex/display?slug=sound06m&date=20010606&query=%22light+rail%22 | title=Sound Transit losing two of its key people | author=Andrew Garber | publisher=The Seattle Times | date=2001-06-06 | accessdate=2007-06-10]

The board decided to instruct staffers to focus their attention on building the southern segment of the line in late June and to provide alternatives to choose from by September.cite news | url=http://archives.seattletimes.nwsource.com/cgi-bin/texis.cgi/web/vortex/display?slug=sound29m0&date=20010629&query=%22light+rail%22 | title=Sound Transit looks south for its first line | author=Jim Brunner | publisher=The Seattle Times | date=2001-06-29 | accessdate=2007-06-10] Supporters of the plan noted that by building the southern segment Sound Transit would be showing that they can get something built and that once it is built, money and support would follow. Critics said that by focusing on the southern segment the line wouldn't attract as many riders and that major population and job centers would not be serviced.

Light at the end of the tunnel

The decision to shorten the line from 21 miles to 14 miles marked a turning point for the embattled project. While the path to completion would not be trouble free, Sound Transit would at least make progress towards starting construction.

Amidst the turmoil caused by the resignation of two of the light rail projects high ranking members and decisions regarding the shortening of the line, Sound Transit received some good news when a federal court judge lifted a court injunction preventing them from contacting Rainier Valley residents about purchasing their property and tossed out a majority of the lawsuit filed by other Rainier Valley residents.cite news| url=http://archives.seattletimes.nwsource.com/cgi-bin/texis.cgi/web/vortex/display?slug=rail17m&date=20010717&query=light+rail | title=Light-rail suit cut down: Judge tosses out most claims made by Rainier Valley group | publisher=The Seattle Times | author=Andrew Garber | date=2001-07-17 | accessdate=2007-07-03] Of the three issues in the lawsuit, the judge removed two of the claims made by the residents' group, the first claim that was tossed out was that Sound Transit was violating the Fair Housing Act and the other that it was violating the National Environmental Policy Act. The one claim that the judge left in the lawsuit was whether Sound Transit intentionally discriminated against Rainer Valley by choosing a surface option instead of tunneling through the valley as it had done in more affluent and less racially and ethnically diverse neighborhoods. A month later, in August, the Rainier Valley group dropped the remaining issue of discrimination due to a lack of funds to continue the lawsuit and because Sound Transit had not yet finalized the route. [cite news | url=http://archives.seattletimes.nwsource.com/cgi-bin/texis.cgi/web/vortex/display?slug=soundtransit10m&date=20010810&query=light+rail | title=Rainier Valley group drops claim against Sound Transit | publisher=The Seattle Times | author=Janet I. Tu | date=2001-08-10 | accessdate=2007-07-03]

Light rail would soon have competition to provide mass transit to Seattle. All three of the major candidates for mayor of Seattle in 2001 endorsed a monorail project despite no details being known about the project. [cite news | url=http://archives.seattletimes.nwsource.com/cgi-bin/texis.cgi/web/vortex/display?slug=monorail28m0&date=20010828&query=light+rail | title=Major mayoral hopefuls climb aboard monorail | author=Andrew Garber | publisher=The Seattle Times | date=2001-08-28 | accessdate=2007-07-03] According to the head of the University of Washington's Transportation Research Center, "Maybe the best thing going for monorail is that it's not light rail." However, while the Seattle Monorail Project would ultimately pass a referendum in 2002, it too would be plagued by many of the same cost overruns and delays that afflicted Link Light Rail and in 2005, Seattle residents voted against a new plan and essentially killed the monorail project.

In September, the Sound Transit Board announced that they had enough money to fund a 14-mile route, later to be called Central Link, that began in Downtown Seattle at the Washington State Convention and Trade Center, proceeded through Downtown in the Metro Transit Tunnel, then through Rainier Valley and Tukwila before ending one mile short of Sea-Tac Airport.cite news | url=http://archives.seattletimes.nwsource.com/cgi-bin/texis.cgi/web/vortex/display?slug=transit13m&date=20010913&query=Light+Rail | title=Sound Transit says it can build 14-mile line; light rail stops short of airport | publisher=The Seattle Times | author=Susan Kelleher | date=2001-09-13 | accessdate=2007-07-14] The decision to stop this "starter" line a mile short of the airport would later be criticized by light rails opponents, [cite news | url=http://archives.seattletimes.nwsource.com/cgi-bin/texis.cgi/web/vortex/display?slug=sound28m&date=20010928&query=%22Light+Rail%22 | title=Shorter light-rail line OK'd | publisher=The Seattle Times | author=Andrew Garber | date=2001-09-28 | accessdate=2007-07-14] but the explanation provided by Sound Transit was that it was that the designs were not completed for a planned remodel of Sea-Tac and that they only had $12 million to extend the line when the projected cost to do so was between $350 million and $500 million.cite news | url=http://archives.seattletimes.nwsource.com/cgi-bin/texis.cgi/web/vortex/display?slug=sound26m&date=20010926&query=Light+Rail | title=Light rail lite goes to vote tomorrow; 1st leg would link Seattle, Tukwila | publisher=The Seattle Times | author=Andrew Garber | date=2001-09-26 | accessdate=2007-07-14] An audit by Deloitte & Touche discovered that while Sound Transit was much better than before, it still ran a risk of cost overruns by not having better procedures to control scope creep. [cite news | url=http://archives.seattletimes.nwsource.com/cgi-bin/texis.cgi/web/vortex/display?slug=sound27m&date=20010927&query=%22Light+Rail%22 | title=Sound Transit's budget warning | publisher=The Seattle Times | author=Andrew Garber | date=2001-09-27 | accessdate=2007-07-15]

On September 25, the Sound Transit Board finally voted to approve the new, shorter, 14-mile line with an estimated cost of $2.1 billion, clearing the way for construction to begin as early as the summer of 2002. While concerns were raised that the project was wasting money, others noted that it was time to get construction started. The line was officially approved on November 29, but some opponents threatened lawsuits to stop construction.cite news | url=http://archives.seattletimes.nwsource.com/cgi-bin/texis.cgi/web/vortex/display?slug=sound30m0&date=20011130&query=%22Light+Rail%22 | title= Sound Transit adopts 14-mile route; light-rail construction could start in summer | publisher=The Seattle Times | author=Eric Pryne | date=2001-11-30 | accessdate=2007-07-15]

At the end of 2001 and beginning of 2002, the project encountered more conflict. After having most of their lawsuit dismissed by a federal judge in mid-July and then dropping the remainder in August, the Rainier Valley community group filed an appeal on December 26, stating the judge had incorrectly ruled when dismissing the discrimination claims. [cite news | url=http://archives.seattletimes.nwsource.com/cgi-bin/texis.cgi/web/vortex/display?slug=valley27m0&date=20011227&query=%22Light+Rail%22 | title=Rail-line foes file appeal of ruling | publisher=The Seattle Times | author=Eric Pryne | date=2001-12-27 | accessdate=2007-07-15] Tim Eyman, a political activist known in Washington for filing anti-tax initiatives and referendums, filed an initiative that would remove an excise tax on car tabs that goes to transit,cite news | url=http://archives.seattletimes.nwsource.com/cgi-bin/texis.cgi/web/vortex/display?slug=eyman08m&date=20020108&query=%22light+rail%22 | title= Revised I-776 launched | publisher=The Seattle news | date=2002-01-08 | accessdate=2007-07-15] while another group of opponents threatened a referendum to block light rail from using the Downtown bus tunnel. [cite news | url=http://archives.seattletimes.nwsource.com/cgi-bin/texis.cgi/web/vortex/display?slug=tunnel09m&date=20020109&query=%22Light+Rail%22 | title= Rail foes threaten to try referendum | publisher=The Seattle Times | author=Eric Pryne | date=2002-01-09 | accessdate=2007-07-15] The result of the initiative, if passed, would remove $67 million of funding from Sound Transit's $270 million annual income. Yet another group questioned the legality of the shortened line, urged Sound Transit to have another public vote, and threatened legal action if Sound Transit did not listen to its urging. [cite news | url=http://archives.seattletimes.nwsource.com/cgi-bin/texis.cgi/web/vortex/display?slug=rail05m&date=20020205&query=%22Light+Rail%22 | title= Light-rail foes open new battle | publisher=The Seattle Times | author=Eric Pryne | date=2002-02-05 | accessdate=2007-07-15] Sound Transit declined the request citing that they would be required to pay for both their court costs and their opponents, bonds were not needed for another two years, and the legal proceedings would tie Sound Transit's hands politically. [cite news | url=http://archives.seattletimes.nwsource.com/cgi-bin/texis.cgi/web/vortex/display?slug=sane01m&date=20020301&query=%22Light+Rail%22 | title= Rail foes push for court ruling, but Sound Transit declines to test its own legality | publisher=The Seattle Times | author=Eric Pryne | date=2002-03-01 | accessdate=2007-07-15]

In late January 2002, Sound Transit began working to repair their image in the nation's capital and paid a visit to federal officials to show that the project had left behind its problems from the previous year. [cite news | url=http://archives.seattletimes.nwsource.com/cgi-bin/texis.cgi/web/vortex/display?slug=soundweb23&date=20020123&query=%22Light+Rail%22 | title= Sound Transit officials, Seattle mayor visit nation's capital | publisher=The Seattle Times | date=2002-01-23 | accessdate=2007-07-15]

Ron Sims, Sound Transit's chairman, announced that it may be possible to extend the line to the University of Washington without raising taxes as long as route modifications to the route saved enough money, they were able to get help from the federal government, and their financial plans were changed to allow more borrowing. [cite news | url=http://archives.seattletimes.nwsource.com/cgi-bin/texis.cgi/web/vortex/display?slug=sound02m&date=20020302&query=%22Light+Rail%22 | title= Sims: Light rail might reach U District without new taxes | publisher=The Seattle Times | author=Eric Pryne | date=2002-03-02 | accessdate=2007-07-15] The route to the University had previously been narrowed down to two options both with tunnels under Lake Washington Ship Canal, one under Montlake Cut and another near University Bridge. [cite news | url=http://archives.seattletimes.nwsource.com/cgi-bin/texis.cgi/web/vortex/display?slug=sound15m&date=20020215&query=%22Light+Rail%22 | title=Light-rail route options in north narrowed to two | publisher=The Seattle Times | author=Eric Pryne | date=2002-02-15 | accessdate=2007-07-15]

Construction

In March 2002, Sound Transit began the process of acquiring land in the Rainier Valley when its board authorized the agency to purchase all of sixty-four properties and parts of two hundred and thirty-two others. [cite news | url=http://archives.seattletimes.nwsource.com/cgi-bin/texis.cgi/web/vortex/display?slug=sound15m&date=20020315&query=%22light+rail%22 | title=Sound Transit gets green light to buy land for light rail | publisher=The Seattle Times | author=Eric Pryne | date=2002-03-15 | accessdate=2007-07-21] Sound Transit was also informed that Link Light Rail received a rating of "Recommended" from the Federal Transit Administration, making it eligible for federal funding. Critics of the project viewed it as further troubles for the project because prior to the previous year's problems the project had a rating of "Highly Recommended", while supporters viewed the rating as an affirmation of the progress the project had made since then. [cite news | url=http://archives.seattletimes.nwsource.com/cgi-bin/texis.cgi/web/vortex/display?slug=transit23m&date=20020323&query=%22light+rail%22 | title=Light rail's rating slips a bit, but Sound Transit still eligible for federal money | publisher=The Seattle Times | author=Peyton Whitely | date=2002-03-23 | accessdate=2007-07-21]

In an attempt to ease the worries of Rainier Valley residents about the impact of light rail, Mayor Nickels proposed over $50 million in investments in the neighborhood, including paying off small business loans, burying power lines, and other community developments. The proposal was unanimously approved by the city council, but not without some complaints that the timing of the funding was questionable as the city was facing budget cuts and that it was the city that was making the funding and not Sound Transit. [cite news | url=http://archives.seattletimes.nwsource.com/cgi-bin/texis.cgi/web/vortex/display?slug=rainierfund30m&date=20020430&query=%22light+rail%22 | title=Millions OK'd for Rainier Valley to mitigate effects of light rail | publisher=The Seattle Times | author=Jim Brunner | date=2002-04-30 | accessdate=2007-07-21]

The main line from Tukwila to Downtown Seattle (Westlake Center) will open by Summer 2009, with the airport stop opening that December. The extension from Downtown to the University District via Capitol Hill will open in 2016.

Current lines

Tacoma Link

Tacoma Link is a free light rail line running through the densest parts of Tacoma. This light rail system connects the Tacoma Dome Station (a regional hub for local and express bus, and commuter train service) with downtown Tacoma. Link trains run every 10 to 20 minutes, Monday through Friday, every 10 minutes, Saturday, and every 20 minutes on Sunday. It has stops at Tacoma Dome, S 25th Street, Union Station, the convention center, and the Theater District. The Union Station stop is next to the University of Washington's Tacoma campus and several museums. As of March 2008, Tacoma Link has a daily ridership of 3,900, surpassing the prediction that by 2010 it would have ridership of 2,000 per day. [cite web
title=Tacoma Link: The Little Tram That Could
publisher=Light Rail Now!
url=http://www.lightrailnow.org/news/n_tac003.htm
month=February | year=2004
accessdate=2007-07-14
]

Central Link

Construction is under way on a new 14-mile Central Link light rail line that many consider to be a critical piece in the Puget Sound region’s transportation future. The trains will begin carrying passengers in 2009, stopping at 12 stations and running 4.4 miles on elevated tracks, 2.5 miles in tunnels and seven miles at grade.To support the line, Sound Transit retrofit the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel and four of its existing stations for joint use by both light rail trains and buses. Sound Transit is also building new light rail stations in the following locations (from North to South): Near Qwest Field and Safeco Field, in the Sodo district at Lander Street just south of downtown Seattle, on Beacon Hill, in the Mount Baker neighborhood at McClellan and Rainier, in the Columbia City neighborhood at Edmunds and Martin Luther King Jr. Way, in the Rainier Beach neighborhood at Henderson and MLK, and in Tukwila on Tukwila International Blvd. Soon after this initial segment of the light rail line opens, Sound Transit will extend the line another 1.7 miles to the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, adding a thirteenth station.The Beacon Hill tunnel is one of the main components of Central Link. Its west portal, or opening, will be under I-5, east of Airport Way. The underground Beacon Hill Station will be located at the southeast corner of Beacon Avenue South and South Lander Street, approximately 150 feet below grade.The east portal, or opening, will be east of 25th Avenue South and south of South McClellan Street, where the light rail line will emerge to an elevated trackway as it approaches the Mount Baker Station near the intersection of Rainier Avenue South and South Stevens Street. [cite web
url=http://soundtransit.org/documents/pdf/projects/link/FACT_Link.pdf
title=Link Light Rail Fact Sheet, June 2006
publisher=Sound Transit
accessdate=2007-07-14
format=PDF
]

University Link

In November 2006, the US Federal Transit Administration approved SoundTransit's plan for extending the light rail to the University of Washington after completion of an Environmental Impact Study. Actual construction will last approximately from 2008-2016. [cite news
url=http://www.thedaily.washington.edu/article/2006/11/28/fedsGiveLightRailGreenLight
title=Feds give light rail green light
publisher=The Daily
author=Meghan Erkkinen
date=2006-11-28
accessdate=2007-07-14
]

Future lines

Sound Transit's Phase 2 plan, under the name of ST2 (Sound Transit 2), proposes future goals of a regional light rail system. Sound Transit phase 2 was put before voters in November 2007 as part of the "Roads and Transit" measure. The measure failed to pass, but because a large roads package and the ST2 rail package were placed into a single ballot measure by the state legislature, it's unclear what support would have been for the Sound Transit package alone.

Sound Transit is putting another ST2 plan on the ballot in November, 2008. The plan would extend light rail to Lynnwood Transit Center in the north, S. 272nd St. in Federal Way to the south, and Downtown Bellevue and Overlake Transit Center to the east. The measure, called Proposition 1, is being promoted by the [http://www.masstransitnow.org Mass Transit Now] campaign.

North Link

North Link is a light rail project being considered as a future light rail segment. It would connect the University of Washington station under way to a central University District station, Roosevelt, Northgate, and points north. Once North Link is complete, the major urban centers of downtown Seattle, Capitol Hill, the University District, and Northgate will be connected via light rail. It is a top priority for Sound Transit for as it would add over 40,000 daily riders to Link Light Rail by 2030, easing pressure on the Interstate 5 corridor. It would be an extension of Central Link, rather than being its own line. Part of Proposition 1, on the ballot in November, 2008, will be a plan to extend Central Link north to Lynnwood Transit Center, via the stations described above and Jackson Park, Shoreline, and Mountlake Terrace. The ballot measure also includes funding for a study to develop possible routes for a future extension of Central Link to Everett. As the extension to Lynnwood Transit Center, will be finished in 2023, it can be assumed that an extension to Everett would not be completed until well after 2023. An extension to Everett would require a separate, future measure.

South Link

Sound Transit plans to connect the south end of Central Link, SeaTac Airport, to the Tacoma Dome Transit Center. The proposed route would have stations at Fife, South Federal Way Park-and-Ride, Federal Way Transit Center, Redondo Heights Park-and-Ride, Highline Community College, and South 200th Street. The length of this connection would be aerial, and would drop down to grade at the Tacoma Dome. It would mostly follow Highway 99. There are many stakeholders, so agreements must be made with all of these organizations, including the Washington State DOT, before it is built. There is a projected daily ridership of 38,000, and it would fulfill one of the main goals of Sound Transit: to connect Seattle and Tacoma via light rail. However, this will not be possible unless Tacoma Link is retrofitted with Central Link technology. Tacoma Link currently runs on 750 volt power, while Central Link runs on 1500 volt power. It uses different types of cars and different sized stations as well.

Sound Transit had put an extension of Central Link to the Tacoma Dome in its Roads & Transit package on the ballot in November, 2007. However, this does not include converting Tacoma Link to be compatible with Central Link, so riders wishing to travel to Downtown Tacoma will have to transfer from Central Link to Tacoma Link. An extension of Central Link as far south as Redondo Heights Park-and-Ride at S. 272nd St. is part of the November, 2008 ballot measure

East Link

East Link is one of three potential second phase extensions to light rail which was part of the Roads & Transit ballot measure in November, 2007 and will be on the ballot in November, 2008. This line would split from Central Link just south of the International District Station in downtown Seattle extend across the I-90 bridge express lanes through downtown Bellevue and serve the Overlake Transit Center, including Microsoft headquarters.

For planning purposes, it is divided into three logical segments: The first would provide stations on I-90 at Rainier Avenue and Mercer Island. The second would include four stations in Bellevue: one at a regional park-and-ride, two in downtown Bellevue, and one at Overlake Hospital. The downtown stations of this segment could be either elevated or underground. The third segment would continue east of downtown Bellevue to the Overlake Transit Center with a connection to a light rail vehicle maintenance facility. This segment of East Link would have three stations which would serve the Bellevue-Redmond Road corridor, the Overlake neighborhood, and the Overlake Transit Center.

East Link also includes right-of-way preservation work for later service extension from Overlake Transit Center to downtown Redmond.

Tacoma Link west extension

Sound Transit is considering extending Tacoma Link Light Rail west to Tacoma Community College. The proposed route would be at grade, and would serve key destinations including Stadium High School, Mary Bridge Children's Hopspital, Tacoma General Hospital, and the University of Puget Sound. It is projected to boost the daily ridership of Tacoma Link by 8,000 people. There are two proposals for this route. One would have the extension use Central Link technology, and the other would use Tacoma Link technology.

This potential extension was included in preliminary drafts of the Roads & Transit measure on the ballot in November, 2007, but it was removed from the final plan. There is concern over whether or not it would be sensible to make this extension, as it would be costly and it would be at-grade, which is contrary to Sound Transit's goals of building and operating rail systems with separate rights-of-way.

See also

* Tacoma Link
* Sounder commuter rail

References

External links

* [http://www.washarp.org/ All Aboard Washington]


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