Capitol Hill’s U District connection: Sound Transit announces October opening for 4.3-mile Northgate light rail expansion

The U District Station under construction in 2020 (Image: Sound Transit)

Sound Transit has announced an opening date for its Northgate Link light rail expansion that will open up the great northlands of Seattle including the University District, Roosevelt, and Northgate to riders from Capitol Hill Station and beyond:

Today, we are officially announcing the opening date for passenger service on Northgate Link. Mark your calendars for October 2 and get ready to ride! The 4.3 mile light rail extension has three stations: two underground serving the U District and Roosevelt neighborhoods, and one elevated station at Northgate. The opening will coincide with service changes on ST Express, King County Metro Transit and Community Transit bus routes that will be modified to allow riders to connect with congestion-free Link service. Voters approved the Northgate Link extension in 2008 as part of the Sound Transit 2 ballot measure. Construction on the project began in 2012 following six years of planning. Twin boring machines began tunneling in 2014, completing the 3.5-mile twin tunnels in 2016.

Continue reading

Short billions for coming voter-approved projects, Sound Transit beginning ‘realignment’ process

With news that new estimates show light rail to Ballard and West Seattle will cost billions more than expected, Sound Transit will hold a public workshop this week to bring its board of directors up to date on the cost challenges:

The Sound Transit Board of Directors will convene a workshop on Jan. 21 as part of work toward planned July decisions on long-range capital program adjustments in response to revenue impacts and cost pressures. The 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. workshop will take place as a videoconference due to ongoing COVID-19 precautions and can be watched at the below link. Information on the realignment process and the revenue and cost challenges is available at soundtransit.org

“Sound Transit is facing an unprecedented and extremely challenging financial environment caused by two major, simultaneous factors: (1) a pandemic-driven recession that has severely reduced consumer spending and government agency tax revenues; and (2) unrelenting pressures in the real estate and construction sectors of the economy that are continuing to drive costs to levels significantly beyond those foreseen in our plans,” the agency’s “Realignment Overview” reads.

“With greatly depleted revenues and higher construction costs, Sound Transit will not be able to deliver many expansion projects on their original timelines unless we receive alternative revenue from federal or state sources,” the overview says. Continue reading

Sound Transit: Light rail to Ballard and West Seattle will cost billions more

(Image: Sound Transit)

Your hopes of taking light rail from Capitol Hill to visit friends in Ballard and West Seattle are going to be even more expensive.

Sound Transit officials have unveiled new cost estimates for the “Sound Transit 3” package of projects including light rail connecting to West Seattle and Ballard that have risen nearly 50% from previous forecasts — a potential $5 billion to $6 billion surge.

Publicola reports:

The estimated cost of extending Seattle’s light rail system to Ballard and West Seattle, as well as several other components of the Sound Transit 3 plan adopted by voters in 2015, has risen dramatically since last year, Sound Transit staffers told the agency’s executive committee Wednesday. The main factors driving the increase, according to the agency, are higher than anticipated property acquisition costs, higher costs for labor and materials, and unanticipated “soft costs,” including additional funding for contingencies.

The the new numbers likely mean new timeframes for the projects. Continue reading

Sound Transit board to vote on fare enforcement policy reform

(Image: Sound Transit)

The Sound Transit board of directors will vote Thursday afternoon on what the body is calling the start of “major reforms” for how the agency handles fare enforcement.

If approved in Thursday’s vote, the proposed motion (PDF) would direct the creation of “a new fare enforcement/engagement program” and suspend all “civil infractions for fare evasion” until the board can vote “on an updated fare enforcement policy.” Continue reading

Light rail service reduction and transfers to continue as Sound Transit needs one more ‘Connect 2020’ closure

New tracks for Connect 2020 (Image: Sound Transit)

The past weekend was supposed to be the final in a series of closures in the push to complete Sound Transit’s Connect 2020 project to hook the coming East Link light rail expansion to the city’s existing underground transit tunnel running from downtown to Pioneer Square.

Looks like contractors will need some extra time after an issue was identified in some of the newly installed track: Continue reading

No downtown light rail this weekend as Sound Transit’s winter construction project reaches halfway point

Where to find your free CHS shuttle

Sound Transit contractors have reached the halfway point of this winter’s construction project to connect the coming East Link light rail expansion to the city’s existing underground transit tunnel running from downtown to Pioneer Square. What comes next this weekend is the second of three planned service disruptions with downtown stations completely closed from Friday 9 PM until Monday morning. “During that time, there will be no Link light rail service between Capitol Hill and SODO,” Sound Transit writes. “Shuttle buses will make surface stops at the closed stations. Fares will not be required for train or shuttle bus passengers.”

Then comes five more weeks of construction and a reversal of sorts for the single tracking solution Sound Transit has been using to keep trains running during the work:

When service resumes, Link passengers traveling through downtown will still need to make a transfer via the new center platform at Pioneer Square. However, the operating platform will have switched to the southbound platform at stations north of Pioneer Square and to the northbound platform at stations south of Pioneer Square. Extensive signage marking the change will be deployed, and Sound Transit ambassadors and security staff will be present to assist passengers in getting where they need to go.

Sound Transit says bikes will remain prohibited at Pioneer Square station throughout the construction. Riders with bikes must exit at University Street or International District/Chinatown stations.

The final planned weekend light rail closure is scheduled for March 14th and 15th.

2020 off to good start: Capitol Hill Station has platform stairs (Now, get ready for 10 weeks of downtown light rail disruptions)

2020 is already better than 2019. There are stairs to the platform in Capitol Hill Station. But like most things in these challenging times, you also need to get ready for a 10-week start to the New Year with Seattle’s light rail system slightly hobbled as it is prepared for big expansion ahead.

First, the good news. After months of waiting and a fair amount of systems and infrastructure updates to make it safe, Sound Transit announced the opening of the new stair access at Capitol Hill Station this week. Last March, CHS reported on the plan to repurpose emergency stairs to add an option for reaching the platform beyond the frequently busted escalators and elevator access. Continue reading

Sound Transit fare enforcement reform recommendations get early 2020 deadline

A roster of King County and Seattle officials are asking for Sound Transit to have answers about how it will reform its fare enforcement policies early in the new year.

A letter signed by Sound Transit Board officials including King County Council member, Joe McDermott, Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan, King County Executive Dow Constantine, and Seattle City Council member Debora Juarez calls on Sound Transit CEO Peter Rogoff to have findings and recommendations for overhauling how the agency manages fare enforcement by February. Continue reading

Sound Transit wants feedback on fare enforcement, searching for new name for Seattle-side ‘Red Line’ light rail

(Image: Sound Transit)

Sound Transit is taking on some important social and operational issues to end 2019: fare enforcement — and the end of the unfortunate “Red Line” name for its future Seattle-side light rail routes.

When CHS has reported on light rail fare enforcement over the years, it has never been good news. Last year, we reported on a video showing a rough “use of force” arrest for a reported fare enforcement issue aboard a train in Capitol Hill Station. This fall, Sound Transit scrambled to explain aggressive fare enforcement efforts against students on the first day of school.

Now, following a Seattle Times report in October showing how Black passengers are cited and punished disproportionately by Sound Transit fare enforcement, the agency is beginning a process to collect feedback on how to address equity and safety issues related to how it collects fares: Continue reading

Reminder: First of three weekends with no light rail between Capitol Hill and SODO

Where you can catch the Sound Transit “bus bridge” this weekend

This coming weekend will be the first of three planned this fall with no light rail service between Capitol Hill and SODO as Sound Transit prepares for major construction of its coming new line:

We’re laying the groundwork to open the Blue Line, a new Link line that will begin taking riders from Northgate to Redmond in 2023. As part of that work, we need to reduce Link service for three weekends this fall. On the weekends of October 12-13, October 26-27, and November 9-10, there will be no Link service between SODO-Capitol Hill. Trains will run from Angle Lake-SODO and UW-Capitol Hill, and free buses will connect the six stations in between.

CHS reported on the planned closures in August when October probably seemed like a long time away. But now the first weekend of service disruption is here. To try to help cover the gap, Sound Transit will be offering bus service between Broadway and John, downtown, and SODO Station. Sound Transit says it chose these weekends because there are no Seahawks or Husky football games. Continue reading