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Light rail plans call for Capitol Hill Station to open in March… 2016


(Images: CHS)

(Images: CHS)

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.Screen Shot 2015-03-05 at 9.58.10 AM

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:Screen Shot 2015-03-05 at 10.06.21 AM

Screen Shot 2015-03-05 at 10.00.46 AMCapitol 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.

Screen Shot 2015-03-05 at 10.05.52 AM



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32 thoughts on “Light rail plans call for Capitol Hill Station to open in March… 2016

    • The most recent project update email says the red wall comes down starting this month, and will be totally down in late summer.

      I would guess based on current progress that the Broadway section will come down last.

  1. All I gotta say is…”Pardon me, boy…is that the Capitol Hill Choo Choo?”

    I’m also very excited for this station and the UW station….I’ll be on it constantly. And I’ll keep dreaming of the Ballard-Fremont–Shoreline rail. To dream the impossible dream.

    Check out the Taipei MRT to see what a REAL urban rail network looks like.

    • Oh man, I love Taipei’s MRT. But we barely have about a third of their population density…so it’s really not fair to compare. But it’s fair to dream!

    • And then read about the odyssey of extending the MRT to Taoyuan Airport and learn that massive delays are not a uniquely American thing.

      • True, Taipei and Seattle are apples and oranges in terms of population and density…and in Seattle’s defense, we did manage to get a train to the airport before Taipei. And I use that airport train on every flight. Why fight traffic and pay for parking? And once I can hop on the Cap Hill station to SeaTac…that’ll be dope on a rope.

  2. Wow, I have been so focused on the Capitol Hill-to-SeaTac aspect of this construction that I only now realized where the U-District station will be. Husky Stadium?? What a pedestrian-unfriendly area of the neighborhood (unless you’re going to a Husky game, I guess). I was hoping this would be able to provide faster transportation to the U-District than riding the 7, but no.

    OTOH, if it keeps people from driving to Husky games, that would be a plus. Is there a significant Husky audience living to the South of UW?

    • Yeah, weird, right? There is a proper UDistrict station in the next extension, a few years away.

      For now, this seems like a great bike-share or car-to-go spot.

      • People will have to walk a bit to get to the Brooklyn area of the U District for the first few years but the Husky Stadium placement is awesome for bikers on the Burke Gilman and I bet Uber and Lyft will make lots of money driving people from the North end to the Husky Stadium station to avoid having to cross a bridge during traffic, having to fret about downtown parking/traffic, and cutting down on the high price of a taxi to the airport. (Hopefully, that won’t significantly worsen traffic in the U Village area over the next few years).

    • It improves pretty significantly with the pedestrian bridge connection to the burke-gilman that is under construction

  3. On the streetcar line there is still a lot of overhead wire to string before any cars can use the tracks. The northbound side is pretty much done, but the southbound side from First Hill to Jackson is still bare.

  4. I thought the idea was to use gravity/batteries for the southbound trip so they wouldn’t have to string all that wire…

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  6. >>The ride from downtown to UW via Broadway is expected to take about 8 minutes<<

    I assume that's from University Street station. From Westlake to UW I believe is only 6 minutes.

  7. Please, Sound Transit, start planning now to extend hours, at least on Friday and Saturday nights, to have trains running past 2am (bar closing). We need to encourage people to use mass transit rather than driving after being out drinking. Capitol Hill has become a night life destination, and that doesn’t end at 1am. We need to pressure Sound Transit for operation hours that reflect the reality of our neighborhood.

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