Sound Transit’s continued expansion both in and around the Seattle area continues as it pushes north toward Snohomish County for the first time. 

A recent groundbreaking event on the Lynnwood Link Extension, an 8.5-mile extension from Northgate in King County, north of Seattle, to Lynnwood City Center, will mark, upon opening for riders in 2024, the first move into Snohomish County. The extension will connect riders from the north heading south to the University of Washington, downtown Seattle, Sea-Tac Airport and the eastside.

The Lynnwood Link project also includes four new stations serving Lynnwood, Mountlake Terrace, Shoreline and Seattle. 

“With some rush-hour commutes reaching over an hour, everyone in Puget Sound knows how important transportation infrastructure is to our region,” said Sen. Maria Cantwell during the groundbreaking event. “That’s why I urged Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao to invest $1.2 billion of federal funding in this light rail expansion. The project will build Snohomish County’s first light rail stations, construct more than eight miles of new light rail, add 1,500 parking stalls and connect North Sound riders to downtown Seattle, Sea-Tac Airport and beyond.”

Stacy & Witbeck/Kiewit/Hoffman JV and Skanska L300 JV will handle the construction on the extension. The $2.9 billion project budget includes up to $1.17 billion from a Full Funding Grant Agreement executed by the FTA. In addition, the U.S. Dept. of Transportation’s Build America Bureau executed a $658 million low-interest loan supporting the Lynnwood light rail extension. That loan was one of four loans captured in a Master Credit Agreement reached between Sound Transit and the USDOT at the end of 2016. The one-of-its-kind agreement should save regional taxpayers between $200 million and $300 million through lower interest costs.

"Of the $9 billion in funding commitments invested by the Trump Administration to support the nation’s transit infrastructure since January 20, 2017, this $1.17 billion Full Funding Grant Agreement is the largest,” said FTA Acting Administrator K. Jane Williams during the groundbreaking. “This investment in the Lynnwood Link project will improve mobility for thousands of people in the Puget Sound region.”

Lynnwood Link light rail service is scheduled to begin in 2024. Sound Transit plans trains to operate every four to six minutes during weekday peak hours. Commuters from the Lynnwood Transit Center will have 20-minute rides to the University of Washington, 27-minute rides to downtown Seattle and 60-minute rides to Sea-Tac Airport. Trains from Lynnwood will also serve the Eastside and reach downtown Bellevue in 51 minutes. Sound Transit projects ridership to reach between 47,000 and 55,000 daily riders by 2026.

“Today’s groundbreaking is the culmination of more than a decade of planning and preparation,” said Sound Transit CEO Peter Rogoff during the groundbreaking event. “From the beginning, this project has received enthusiastic support from the federal, state and local governments, our congressional delegation, the business and labor communities, and voters — a sign of the hunger for relief from the horrendous highway congestion facing travelers every day. This project will be a game changer for Snohomish County commuters. And in the years to come, we will be extending Link from Lynnwood all the way to Everett.” 

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. The Northgate Link Extension adds three stations to the Red Line in 2021. In 2024, the Blue Line will extend from Overlake into downtown Redmond and additional extension will operate to Shoreline, Mountlake Terrace, Lynnwood, Kent/Des Moines and Federal Way. Further light rail extensions are scheduled to 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