The 14-mile Sound Transit East Link light rail extension is more than half-completed, keeping the project on track for a 2023 launch of the Blue Line that will carry riders between Redmond and Northgate. 

“East Link will connect people throughout the Eastside to employment centers in Redmond and Bellevue, providing them many more options in where they choose to live and work,” says John Marchione, Sound Transit Board chair and Redmond mayor, in a statement. 

As Sound Transit contractor crews pass the 50 percent mark, they have constructed 2.86 miles of elevated guideway, excavated a tunnel under downtown Bellevue and built a bridge over Interstate 405. Crews have installed almost a mile of track and nearly completed a station on Mercer Island, strengthened the Interstate 90 floating bridge via post-tensioning and taken down the Rainier Avenue bridge in Seattle to make way for the future Judkins Park station. 

Using a “traveler” crane, crews have constructed the first half of a long-span bridge across I-90 and started pre-construction work at the International District Station to prepare for a connection between East Link and an existing transit tunnel in downtown Seattle as part of Connect 2020. 

As 2019 continues, the next big projects for the East Link work include finalizing preparations for Connect 2020, building parking facilities at the future South Bellevue, Bel-Red and Redmond Technology stations and continued construction of the 112th Street Southeast rail undercrossing. Crews will construct a pedestrian bridge across State Route 520 to provide a direct connection from the future Overlake Village station to trails, complete all of the alignment’s elevated guideway and continue to lay miles of track. 

In a world’s first, crews will install track on the I-90 floating bridge. 

When completed, East Link will extend light rail 14 miles from downtown Seattle to Mercer Island, downtown Bellevue and the Overlake area of Redmond via I-90. It will include 10 stations. When the Blue Line begins operations in 2023, passengers can travel from Mercer Island to the University of Washington in 20 minutes, from South Bellevue to Sea-Tac Airport in 50 minutes and from Redmond Technology to Bellevue's downtown in 10 minutes. 

Sound Transit CEO Peter Rogoff says the opening of the Blue Line will transform commuting for residents on both sides of Lake Washington, trading in the slowing vehicle commutes for “reliable service no matter how bad the traffic or weather.” 

The East Link remains just one part of the nation’s fastest-growing light rail network. Sound Transit is simultaneously working to extend light rail north, south, east and west, opening new stations every few years to form a 116-mile regional system by 2041. 

Northgate Link will open in 2021, followed by East Link in 2023. Additional extensions to Shoreline, Mountlake Terrace, Lynnwood, Ken/Des Moines, Federal Way and downtown Redmond are planned in 2024. Further light rail extensions will reach West Seattle, Fife and Tacoma in 2030, Ballard in 2035, Paine Field and Everett in 2036 and South Kirkland and Issaquah in 2041. 

Follow Tim Newcomb on Twitter at @tdnewcomb