Ahead of schedule and under budget, Sound Transit is apparently ready to start talking about a possible early opening for the $1.9 billion, 3.1 mile, U-Link light rail extension connecting downtown to UW’s southeastern edge via Capitol Hill Station. But don’t get too excited — we’re talking months, not years.
At Thursday’s Sound Transit board meeting, CEO Joni Earl announced discussions are underway with contractors to determine the cost of moving the schedule up from the current planned opening of September 2016. A Sound Transit briefing document on a “Potential early University Link Opening” is below.
Earlier this month, CHS reported that the project to bore twin tunnels and complete stations at Montlake and on Broadway was six months ahead of schedule and $100 million below budget. “The riskiest part of the job, going under I-5, is finished,” spokesperson Bruce Gray told CHS. “U-Link is going great.”
Thursday’s board meeting also included an important vote on the development agreement for the Sound Transit-owned properties around the Broadway station site. As expected the board authorized the plan forged by a multi-year community process and the Seattle City Council to create a framework for affordable housing, retail and community space in developments that will soar some 85 feet adjacent the neighboring station. With the possibility of an early completion of construction on the light rail system and Capitol Hill Station, Sound Transit is planning for the development properties to be ready for construction to begin in March 2016.
In Thursday’s board meeting discussion about the possibilities for an early opening of the line and the release of the briefing document, Sound Transit is talking publicly for the first time about plans to take advantage of the speedy pace even as work on Capitol Hill Station is only about a quarter complete. The agency also says an early opening would have to be coordinated with King County Metro, the City of Seattle, UW and the Federal Transit Administration.
According to the Sound Transit document, the agency expects to know more about the possibility of an early opening by the end of 2013.
In the meantime, work to finish the First Hill streetcar through to the interim Denny Way terminus is on pace for a spring 2014 opening. With the current 6-month float, light rail may now make its own spring debut on Capitol Hill two years later.