March 2016 will be an epic month for Seattle’s transportation system. Sound Transit officials are planning for a “launch” event that month for the new light rail extension from downtown to Montlake via Capitol Hill, according to a Wednesday morning Seattle “special events” planning session.
Meanwhile, state officials are also planning a March 2016 grand opening event for the 520 bridge replacement project that will include a fun run across Seattle streets and WSDOT’s new floating bridge. No, the westside portion of the project won’t yet be complete. The Cascade Bicycle Club is also planning an Emerald City Bicycle Ride as part of the grand opening festivities, according to Wednesday’s meeting.
The opening of the two major infrastructure projects will be big news for transit geeks and commuters alike. The March 2016 light rail launch event will involve both Capitol Hill Station on Broadway and the UW Station near Husky Stadium. No specific dates for the events have been announced.
This March, CHS reported on planning documents that detailed a March 2016 start of service for the new light rail extension but Sound Transit officials cautioned that the schedule as of last spring was still in the air. The new events planning apparently aligns with the longterm plan.
The $110 million Capitol Hill Station facility stretches from John to Denny below two acres of Broadway just northwest of Cal Anderson Park. “Pre-revenue testing”
has been underway will begin in early 2016 in the twin tunnels between downtown and Montlake under Capitol Hill. The testing includes trains — passenger-less, of course — continuing from Westlake to UW Station to put the system fully through its paces.
When service begins, Broadway riders will descend around 65 feet via escalators or elevators to reach the Capitol Hill Station platform. In addition to the main entrance near Broadway and John, the station will also be accessed by a Seattle Central-friendly entrance near Denny on the west side of Broadway and a third entrance on the south end of the site.
Above the platform, the controversial Jet Kiss, a massive sculpture crafted from A-4 Skyhawk fighter jets by artist Mike Ross, already hangs. Tiled murals by Capitol Hill artist Ellen Forney will be installed before the station’s opening.
By 2030, about 14,000 Capitol Hill riders are expected to board the light rail trains each day. Hours of operation will mirror the service — the facility is scheduled to be open from 5 AM to 1 AM — every day but Sunday when hours are reduced to 6 AM to midnight.
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. When Metro buses are finally phased out of the Downtown Transit Tunnel in 2021, Sound Transit expects the the trip to UW to drop to around 6 minutes. 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.
Development including affordable housing around Capitol Hill Station will not have broken ground by the time the system opens next spring.
With the March planning, the First Hill Streetcar now has a firm goal to race against if that project hopes to begin serving Capitol Hill riders before light rail. In the meantime, Metro is optimizing its routes in anticipation of the start of light rail service and the city is refining parking rules around the station. The big, red construction wall — and its gallery of art installations — is now long gone.
UPDATE: A Sound Transit spokesperson could neither confirm nor deny our report. “For now all I can say is that U Link it’s scheduled to open in Q1 of next year,” the spokesperson tells CHS. Sorry we are too impatient to wait for the press release, Sound Transit spokesperson. Thanks for continuing to answer our messages anyway.
UPDATE x2: Here comes the streetcar. We heard 404 (pink!) was on Broadway Wednesday afternoon:
Cars 404 (Pink) & 405 (Gold) started reliability testing this week. Feel free to gawk, wave; also see safety tips http://t.co/WlZRqdaxyi
— Seattle Streetcar (@TheStreetcar) October 14, 2015