Testing begins on Northgate light rail extension in Seattle

Trains have taken to the Northgate extension tracks for the first time in Seattle as the project looks set to come in on-budget and on-time.

Sound transit train in Seattle

The Northgate Link has opened to the public in the Washington city of Seattle

Testing has begun on the Northgate Link light rail extension in Seattle after nearly nine years of construction this week.

The extension will connect the northern suburb of Northgate with the University of Washington, and therefore with Seattle city centre. Sound Transit (named after the Puget Sound which Seattle sits on) says the link is expected to open on-time and on-budget in September this year, after construction on the project began in 2012 with a budget of $1.9 billion.

When finished, the 4.3 mile extension will offer passengers reliable, traffic-free travel between Northgate and downtown Seattle in just 14 minutes. Trains traveling in 3.5-mile twin tunnels north to and from the University of Washington Station at Husky Stadium will stop at underground stations in the U District and Roosevelt neighbourhoods, exit the tunnels at First Avenue Northeast and Northeast 95th and transition to a 0.8-mile elevated guideway to reach the station.

“Seeing light rail vehicles on the Northgate extension really drives home how close we are getting to the start of revenue service,” said Sound Transit CEO Peter Rogoff.

“Less than a year from now, Northgate Link will be offering passengers reliable, traffic-free travel to downtown Seattle and Sea-Tac airport.”

The Northgate extension is not the only project underway in Washington state’s most populous city. New extensions are expected to be opened at regular intervals over the next few years as the network expands in all directions.

Sound Transit says it is simultaneously working to extend light rail north, south, east and west. Northgate Link will be followed in 2023 by the opening of service to Mercer Island, Bellevue and Redmond’s Overlake community. Additional extensions to Shoreline, Mountlake Terrace, Lynnwood, Kent/Des Moines, Federal Way and downtown Redmond are planned in 2024.

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