Despite the weirdness of this year, construction on light rail extension projects has continued at a solid clip and more trains, tracks, and stations are so close we can almost taste them. (Please do not attempt to actually taste them.) Over the next four years, Seattle will open 28 (!!!) new stations, some of them in less than a year, and they will completely transform the way you get around town.
In fact, they’ll transform the way you get around multiple towns, because the new tendrils of the Link extensions will spread across Seattle to the east side and down to Kent and Tacoma, like the tentacles of a giant sexy hentai monster. Please, please, no matter how tempting it may seem, do not attempt to lick the trains.
So, just how close are we to a transformed transit experience? I’m glad you asked—pull up a chair, brew a cup of coffee, and try to keep your tongue in your mouth as we do a little year-end roundup of Sound Transit’s most seductive construction projects.
First up is the Northgate Extension, and good God is it tantalizingly close: It opens in September of 2021, just in time for classes to begin. Three new stations (U District, Roosevelt, Northgate) will connect thousands of people and businesses that were previously too distant from rail to rely on train service. It’s going to be incredible to have fast access to the U District—there are so many great shops and venues up there that it’s hard to imagine an area better suited for light rail. Not to mention, everyone who lives and works around the school will have an 8-minute ride into the city, which means a flood of college kids shopping and playing and hanging out all over Seattle.
The Northgate extension is currently 97% complete, which also describes my level of excitement when I hear that news.
Next, there’s the East Link extension, poking into Bellevue on up to Redmond by way of Mercer Island. I’ve written in the past about how, once accessible, Mercer will provide unbelievably charming weekend getaways—they have taffy!—and oh yeah there’s some computer companies or whatever over on the east side, so light rail will totally transform the traffic situation for commuters heading to and fro across the lake. But taffy!!!
The East Link project is 85 percent complete. It’s scheduled to open in 2023, as are my legs.
Then we’ve got the Lynnwood extension, which will continue north from Northgate to Shoreline, Mountlake Terrace, and Lynnwood, locations that are so far outside the core of Seattle that mentioning them will likely earn you befuddled stares. Why should you care about fast easy access to these places? Well, for one thing, the way things are going you probably won’t be able to afford to live in Seattle for much longer, and once light rail opens our northern neighbors will offer more reasonable rent without forcing you to schedule an entire day of travel if you want to go to a show at Neumos.
It will also significantly expand your Scruff opportunities. Your scruffortunities.
And while a Mountlake zipcode may not carry the cultural cache of 98101, there’s just so much SPACE up north. The new light rail stations will be located next to golf courses, which should of course be destroyed and turned into something useful that does not attract an undesirable element (i.e. golfers).
The Lynnwood project is
85% (correction: 25%) complete and opens in 2024. You can endure four years of edging, right?
Then there’s the Federal Way extension, which drops down from Angle Lake to Kent and Des Moines to a transit center at the base of Puget Sound. Along the way, it’ll connect to Highline College and a lovely wetland while reducing a ton of traffic along I-5, and it'll come tantalizing close to Tacoma. I’m stunned by how quickly this particular project is coming along, considering the usual multi-decade pace of most transit build-outs; they broke ground earlier this year (I cried) and they’re already about 23% of the way done. It opens in 2024.
Oh, and speaking of Tacoma: Hold onto your garters, because connections all the way down to the Dome are finally in sight. Linking Seattle and Tacoma starts with the Hilltop Tacoma Link project, currently 62 percent complete and on track to open in 2022. From there, the plan is to connect Seattle’s light rail and Tacoma’s for a seamless journey from one city to the other by the end of the next decade.
If you only spend time in and around Seattle, it’s easy to forget that Sound Transit runs trains in other cities. But come 2030, it’ll feel inconceivable that it was ever any other way.
So there you have it—a region absolutely fecund with transit expansion, with openings tantalizingly close. It’s thrilling, just absolutely unspeakably alluringly deliciously moistly thrilling. If you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to take a cold shower before reading an environmental impact report about nominal rail gauges.