East Link Light Rail Seattle Bellevue Connection
Photo by Michael Brunk / nwlens.com

Sound Transit announced that the East Link opening timeframe has been delayed once again. New opening dates for the extensions to the Eastside, Lynwood, and Federal Way will be set in the coming months.

According to Sound Transit, after undertaking a thorough risk analysis, two possible scenarios have been outlined for Board members to consider. More work and Board direction are required before an updated opening timeframe can be confirmed and announced.

Possible project opening timelines without an East Link Starter Line could include Lynwood Link Extension Summer/Fall 2024, East Link & Downtown Redmond Link Extensions Spring 2025, and Federal Way Link Extension TBD.

This approach would open each project as soon as it’s ready. Sound Transit is also exploring whether there are reasonable opportunities and benefits to opening some parts of a single extension in advance of the project’s full readiness.

East Link is the only project that could potentially open without the entire project being ready. The biggest construction challenges only affect a part of its alignment, along I-90 on the east and west sides of Lake Washington.

The segment between South Bellevue Station and Redmond Technology Station would be completed in early 2024 and have direct access to OMF East. South Bellevue is best suited as a temporary western endpoint for an East Link Starter Line because it has crossover track nearby and wouldn’t interfere with ongoing construction on the I-90 segment or require re-work.

The East Link Starter Line scenario would cause opening dates to look like East Link Starter Line Spring 2024, Lynwood Link Extension Fall/Winter 2024, East Link & Downtown Redmond Link Extensions Spring 2025, and Federal Way Link Extension TDB.

This option would open more regional access to high-capacity transit sooner than in the first scenario but would likely delay Lynwood’s opening by a month or two in order to maintain the six-month window between openings.

Both scenarios have been presented to the Board for consideration, and the direction that they choose could be confirmed as soon as January.

Despite the Board’s approval, risks could still affect the opening date, including active construction, opening preparations, testing, and staffing.

Sound Transit will be collaborating with local partners to address hiring challenges that represent the biggest current risk to the project’s opening dates and the sequencing challenges that could potentially impact riders.

Sound Transit last announced the project’s delay for at least one year in August 2022. Since April 2022, the public transit agency has been flagging delays affecting not only the East Link project, but also, the Downtown Redmond, Lynwood, and Federal Way Link projects. The issues that East Link has been facing include construction quality and durability concerns, with raised concrete structures to support the tracks in key sections of alignment.

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