We first reported back in September that Sound Transit was evaluating strategies to expedite the opening of University Link. At today’s ULink Project Update at the ST Board Meeting, Sound Transit Executive Director of Design, Engineering, and Construction Management Ahmad Fazel expanded on Sound Transit’s hopes for an earlier date, with very exciting news.
The current opening date of September 24, 2016 has been calculated based upon the finishing of major construction (September 2015), 180 days of systems testing (September 2015-March 2016), plus 169 days of schedule float (September 24, 2016). Mr. Fazel presented 3 scenarios for an earlier opening:
- Q2 2016: Adhering to the current schedule but using the scheduled float.
- Q1 2016: Adhering to the current construction schedule but compressing systems testing and using the scheduled float.
- Q4 2015: Compressing the remaining construction schedule, compressing systems testing, and using the float.
The earliest option, a Q4 2015 opening, would incur additional costs of $10-12m, while the other two options incur no additional costs. Accordingly, staff recommended the middle option to the board: that the construction schedule be left intact, that systems testing be shortened from 180 to 90 days, and that the 169 days of float be used. Doing the back-of-the-napkin math, ULink could open as early as January 8, 2016.
Sound Transit isn’t ready to actually pull the trigger and change the official opening date at this time, but staff will come back with a recommendation to the board within 12-14 months to set a firm opening date that falls within Q1 2016.
Beyond up to 9 months of better mobility for thousands of residents across the region, the timing will be fortuitous for many other reasons:
- A January opening would allow Metro’s February 2016 service change to take full advantage of the new service
- ULink would be online in time for the full summer tourist season
- ULink would be open for the winter and spring quarters of the ’15-’16 academic year
- Nearly a year of rider impressions would be made ahead of a possible ST3 vote in November 2016
Congratulations to Sound Transit and their contractors on a very successful construction project thus far. Let’s all hope that ST can keep to this expedited schedule.