Link light rail expansion construction faces delays

Dec 12, 2022, 12:51 PM

Image: Sound Transit implementing ways to make light rail safer....

Sound Transit implementing ways to make light rail safer. (Photo from Sound Transit)

(Photo from Sound Transit)

Sound Transit is undertaking one of the largest regional light rail network expansions in the country, looking to expand their service from 26 miles to 62 miles of track.

But such a large project comes with its own challenges. Sound Transit announced Friday an update to their schedule for opening a series of expansions to the light rail system after delays caused by the pandemic and its ongoing effects on the labor market and global supply chain, a regional concrete delivery strike, and design and construction quality issues on some projects.

Councilmember calls for light rail ‘starter line’ from Bellevue to Redmond

The agency originally planned to open East Link between Seattle and the Eastside in 2023 but now says it could be 2025 before trains cross Lake Washington because of pandemic-related delays and four miles of track supports that need to be rebuilt.

The agency is now looking into opening an Eastside-only “starter line” between Bellevue and Redmond in 2024, a year before it connects to Seattle. Sound Transit will consider this option in January at their board meeting.

The T line in Tacoma will also be delayed from its original projected completion of spring 2023, with construction complications now pushing back the opening to summer 2024.

Julie Timm, Sound Transit’s CEO, spoke to the challenges that they are facing in rail construction and how they will be moving ahead.

“We’ll also be collaborating with our local partners to address the hiring challenges that represent the biggest current risk to our project openings and the sequencing challenges that may impact all of our riders and projects planned over the next few years,” Timm said.

Sound Transit outlined the specific details of the delays and the new possible timelines for construction and tradeoffs in a post on their blog.

The agency’s board will weigh in on the new schedule options next month.

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Link light rail expansion construction faces delays