It’s 2023: You catch the light rail at Northgate and end up in downtown Bellevue in less than 40 minutes. This is the future of Link light rail in Seattle. But before this utopia becomes a reality, Sound Transit has got some work to do—and it all begins this fall.
For three weekends, Sound Transit will completely shut down five light rail stations downtown to build a temporary center platform at Pioneer Square station, which riders will use to change trains come January 2020. On the weekends of October 12 and 13, October 26 and 27, and November 9 and 10, Westlake station, University Street station, International District/Chinatown station, and Stadium station will not be in service. Trains will run, however, from UW to Capitol Hill and SoDo to Angle Lake.
To make up for the inconvenience, Sound Transit will be running free shuttles between each of the stations. The buses, which will be able to accommodate bikers, will run every ten minutes both north and southbound. Temporary signs will be placed outside each station to direct riders to the designated shuttle pickup/drop-off points.
If you’re trying to get from, say, the University of Washington to Sea-Tac, you’ll have to hop on the light rail at the UW station, get off at Capitol Hill's station to board the shuttle, take the shuttle all the way to SoDo station, then hop back on the light rail and ride it all the way to the airport.
While construction to build the temporary center platform will only take place at Pioneer Square, Sound Transit will need to power down the overhead wires at all of the downtown stations to ensure safe working conditions. The temporary center platform will be used by riders this January as Sound Transit connects the existing light rail system to Mercer Island, Bellevue, and Redmond as part of its Connect 2020 initiative.
On average, Sound Transit sees 56,700 boardings on Saturday and 44,600 on Sunday across all of its stations. While no major sports games are currently scheduled for these dates, the closures will still likely interfere with riders’ weekend plans. Indeed, maneuvering around the city will be even more complicated on the final weekend, as tolling on the new Highway 99 tunnel takes effect on November 9.
These upcoming weekend closures may not be a full-blown Seattle Squeeze 2.0, but they're sure to give Seattleites a bit of a headache. “This period of time is not going to be very fun for people,” says Sound Transit Public Information Officer Rachelle Cunningham, “but it’s all in the name of progress—and come 2023, it’ll all be worth it.”