North Seattle light-rail supporters, many of whom are cramming into 70-series King County Metro Transit bus lines, are eager for a new subway to open as soon as possible linking Westlake Station, Capitol Hill and the University of Washington.
Two months ago, Sound Transit CEO Joni Earl said she would look into whether the official Sept. 24, 2016 start date could be accelerated, given that construction has gone smoothly so far, as described in this news story. Earl planned to confer with contractors about what’s doable.
And it turns out, the agency said Thursday it will indeed trim six to nine months off the schedule — and open in first quarter 2016.
Light-rail director Ahmad Fazel told the transit board during a presentation Thursday that with the $1.95 billion, three-mile tunnel 79 percent complete, the project still has 169 days of leeway in the construction schedule, known as “float.” And it’s trending $107 million under budget, raising a possibility that savings can be some day applied toward construction farther north. To attain the early start, transit executives say they’ll try to finish train and signal testing in 90 days instead of the customary 180 days.
Trains are expected to reach Northgate in 2021 and Lynnwood in 2023. Also on Thursday, the transit board endorsed a preliminary north route, for environmental studies, that would avoid blocking access to a Latvian church near Northgate, and seek to bypass wetlands and apartments in Lynnwood, said spokesman Bruce Gray.