March 2016 will be a big month for Capitol Hill transit. If everything goes to plan — and it has, mostly, through four years of work so far — Broadway’s Capitol Hill Station and the 3.1 mile University Link extension of Sound Transit’s light rail network will begin “revenue service” a year from now.
In the agency’s “2015 Service Implementation Plan” (PDF), Sound Transit planners lay out the timeline for the $1.8 billion project to begin carrying passengers next March as part of its regular schedule of service changes through its various bus and rail services.
Trial runs on the line are expected to begin “in Fourth Quarter 2015,” according to the document produced last December. “Testing for the University extension is expected to begin either at or sometime during the September 2015 service change,” the document notes elsewhere in the plan.
According to Sound Transit, the project remains around 8% under budget with the total cost expected to come in around $1.8 billion. A March opening would put the project about six months ahead of some of its early planning and keep to the pace the agency has been talking about publicly since 2013.
UPDATE: We’ll let you parse this response from a Sound Transit spokesperson:
We really don’t know that U Link will open in March, 2016. All we know right now is that it will be in the first quarter – could be anytime Jan-March at this point. The service changes that the SIP referred to are any changes that happen as/after U Link opens, not the usual service changes that happen in February.
The spokesperson tells us that Sound Transit is planning to update the document “to say U Link opens in Q1 next year.” The original wording? “Testing for this alignment will begin in Fourth Quarter 2015 with revenue service anticipated to begin with the March 2016 service change.”
The new milestone for Capitol Hill riders joins more potentially good scheduling news when it comes to public transit in the neighborhood as the Seattle Department of Transportation has arrived at a new deal with the Czech Republic company building the trams for the First Hill Streetcar project that would put that line on track for a start of service this summer. One of the due streetcars finally arrived last week. An update about the streetcar line connecting Pioneer Square to Broadway via First Hill will be presented to the Seattle City Council next week. It is expected that testing on the line could begin within weeks.
Back at Capitol Hill Station, work is progressing to complete the facility as the development negotiations for the valuable land around the station continue. The Sound Transit board has been evaluating proposals to develop the housing and retail properties surrounding the Broadway light rail station. It is expected to announce the winning bidders this month. At this point, it’s clear the station will open for riders with work far from complete on new buildings that will surround the site.
The ride from downtown to UW via Broadway is expected to take about 8 minutes — 3 minutes from the Hill to the Montlake station adjacent Husky Stadium. CHS reported that, yes, you’ll be able to use your mobile phone thanks to a new contract Sound Transit has pounded out with a service provider for the twin tunnels on the route. Fares and service hours are predicted to remain stable:
Capitol Hill Station is about 65 feet beneath the surface and will have three entrances: a north entrance on the east side of Broadway at the corner of East John Street, an entrance on the west side of Broadway just south of East Denny Way, and a south entrance at the corner of East Denny Way and Nagle Place. In 2016, the entirety of the expanded Central Link system is expected to carry 48,500 riders per day. By 2030 about 14,000 Capitol Hill Station riders are expected to board the light rail trains daily. They’ll enjoy some excellent, circa-2015 Capitol Hill art.