Lake Washington’s rapid transit expansion reaches milestone

Aug 27, 2021, 2:40 PM | Updated: Nov 24, 2021, 4:03 pm
rapid transit...
A general view of Lake Washington from Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Jeff Halstead/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
(Photo by Jeff Halstead/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

A critical component of the future of the Puget Sound region’s mass transit system, rapid bus transit connecting Burien to Lynnwood and Shoreline to Bothell, was just finalized.

In an Aug. 26 Sound Transit Board of Directors meeting, Bothell’s Canyon Park was unanimously confirmed as the location for the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) maintenance base north that will service Interstate 405 and State Route 522. The base is set to open in 2025, upon conclusion of its final design.

This vote represents a definitive step toward the completion of Sound Transit’s Rapid Transit Program, denoted as “Stride,” which will service communities north, east, and south of Lake Washington with rapid transit bus lines, connecting to light rail transitions.

“The Stride program is comprised of 45 miles of planned service with three lines and a maintenance facility,” said HCT East Corridor Development Director Bernard van de Kamp. “Project development is nearly finished for these components.”

The maintenance base project will service the following routes:

  • I-405 South from Bellevue to Burien (2026)
  • I-405 North from Bellevue to Lynnwood (2027)
  • SR 522/145th from Shoreline to Bothell (2026)

The maintenance base project will accommodate parking for 120 buses, provide fueling stations for its vehicles, build BRT’s Operation and Control Center, and support infrastructure for battery electric buses. The language of the maintenance base construction resolution summary states that “10 Battery Electric Buses … will operate on the SR 522/145th line,” and that the base will “accommodate future conversion to an all Battery Electric fleet.”

The 10 battery electric buses represent Sound Transit’s first foray into such technology. The base will provide overnight chargers, and conduits will be installed to facilitate future expansion into battery electric bus technology if the initial 10 prove successful. A representative speaking on behalf of Sound Transit spoke to MyNorthwest of the agency’s plans to move toward the all battery electric fleet.

“Sound Transit does not have specific plans for additional BEBs at this time,” wrote Public Information Officer Rachelle Cunningham. “The Agency’s Sustainability Plan includes a long-term goal (2050) to achieve carbon-free operations, as well as short-term goals (2024) to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 10 percent, and to plan bus bases for convertibility to zero-emission technologies.”

Of the 120 buses to be stored at the maintenance base, 80 will be articulated hybrid diesel buses, 10 of which will be battery electric. The other 40 vehicles will be double-decker buses.

The 120 bus figure represents an increase over earlier versions of the project. While ST3 was refined, 40 Sound Transit Express Buses were added to the project to “partially address … the region’s long-term need for additional bus base capacity,” according to the project resolution summary.

“There is a regional lack of bus base capacity,” Cunningham wrote. “Sound Transit is currently reliant on its partner transit agencies for bus operations and storage. Increasing the capacity of the base without increasing the footprint (land requirements) will alleviate some of this capacity pressure and will allow for future flexibility.”

The project is expected to cost $290 million. The estimate analysis was conducted by Triunity, a management and engineering consultancy group that was hired by Sound Transit for $774,130. The projected construction cost for the maintenance base was included in the recent “realignment” to ST3, and therefore will not cause delay to the transit expansion project.

County leaders caution Sound Transit plans for light rail could fall ‘victim to local interests’

Construction for the project is anticipated to begin 2024, contingent on the Sound Transit Board’s schedule to be set in 2022 and 2023.

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Lake Washington’s rapid transit expansion reaches milestone