Yesterday the US Congress approved $88.6 million for ULink and Central link. This is slightly less than the $94 million mentioned before for 2008, though the difference is all coming out of ULink, which means that we probably will still get all the money in total, it might just take longer.

In the press release I received it had this quote:

The project connects the three largest urban centers in the region: downtown Seattle, Capitol Hill and the University District. It will offer much faster travel times for transit passengers than buses. Light rail will carry passengers from downtown to the University in 9 minutes instead of 25 and to Capitol Hill in 6 minutes instead of 14. Trips between Capitol Hill and the University District will take 3 minutes instead of 22. Riders will also enjoy reliable service no matter how bad the weather or traffic congestion.

Three minutes!

Update: Added the press release.

There a few things to read into this, since the Feds have already given Sound Transit $20mn before the finally grant decision on University Link. First, it looks like University Link is going forward regardless of the death of Prop. 1. This shows that Ted Van Dyk and his “Battle of Stalingrad” quote were wrong, that ST will be able to complete that segment regardless of whatelse happens. 3.15 miles more subway for Seattle!

Also, it shows just how badly we need real, rapid transit here. This got the highest possible rating, and just two stations adds 70,000 riders to the line. This is basically the cheapest transportation project attempted in recent memory in this area. At fully one-tenth the cost of widening I-405, this will add more than more than 25% as much people-moving capacity..

13 Replies to “3 minutes”

  1. That’s why it got federal funding. The cost effectiveness measure is based on riders and travel time savings. That line wouldn’t have been funded in flat land.

  2. Ok, so according to the ST travel times, Westlake-Capitol Hill is also 3 minutes (!!!!!!!!) with a one minute boarding time, making the whole trip just seven minutes (!!!!).

    I guess when they counted “downtown” they counted University Street.

  3. downtown to the udist takes far less than 25 minutes when the express lanes are being used. obviously it takes longer at other times though. but it’s possible to go from westlake to the Ave in 10 minutes when the stars are aligned correctly.

  4. The recently added part comparing the cost per person moved to the I-405 expansion is very impressive. Light rail comes out better than I, as a pretty fervent transit supporter, had even expected. I hope Sound Transit promote that information heavily when they start spending the money.

  5. I think the $88M is part of the $750M grant that ST has secured for the U-Link. They’re just doling it out in pieces, as it’s needed.

  6. The $750 million Federal Transit Administration (FTA, part of USDOT) grant for University Link light rail is desired by Sound Transit, Senator Patty Murray, U.S. Secretary of Transportation Mary Peters, and many other people and agencies.

    However, the full grant approval is not yet a done deal, and won’t be until 2008 or later. There are a number of technical qualifications required by law under the New Starts program of the U.S. DOT. (Anybody interested can Google for “New Starts” at and learn more.)

    The next milestone will be the issuance pretty soon of the New Starts report by the USDOT simultaneously with the release of the FY 2009 Federal budget in late January or February of next year. In that report the Bush Administration will announce (or not) its expectation that Sound Transit will be awarded a $750 million Full Funding Grant Agreement (FFGA) sometime in the next 12 months. You will hear celebrating at Union Station if that announcement is made.

    Because the $500 million FFGA for the Initial Segment has not been fully spent and the Initial Segment is not yet completed, I am not expecting Sound Transit to be awarded the FFGA for University Link during calendar 2008. The history of Link light rail to date is that ST expects and hopes Federal approvals to come through quicker than they actually do.

    Another legal issue potentially slowing the award of the University Link FFGA lies in the “completeness” of the Seattle Subway to Husky Stadium with no funding on hand to continue the Subway to Northgate. Prop 1 would have solved this problem, but Prop 1 lost.

    There is a consensus among many light rail advocates that Husky Stadium is not a good location for a northern terminus for a light rail to downtown Seattle. Everybody knows that Northgate is the long-planned next “gateway” for light rail into downtown Seattle.

    At the same time there is a legal requirement that an FFGA fund a complete line with no additional funding required. Sound Transit may argue to USDOT that building to Husky Stadium increases the odds that regional voters will support light rail to Northgate.

    Others might argue that Sound Transit should use the successful operation of Initial Link plus the Airport Station in 2010 to be the stimulus for a new vote that achieves the local funding for the full North Link line to Northgate. Those skeptical about Sound Transit’s abilities will argue that the $750 million University Link FFGA should be awarded to fill in the missing funding after all local funding is on hand.

    The downside of this sequence for light rail advocates is that the opening day for the Seattle Subway to University Link may be delayed.

    However, with sufficient local funding from the passage of a new transit tax increase, Sound Transit might be able to employ multiple tunnel boring machines (TBMs) to dig the subway tube segments faster from Pine Street to Husky and on to the northern tunnel portal at 75th Street alongside I-5.

    (Think about how the Beacon Hill twin tubes are going slowly and now represent a schedule risk for the 2009 opening of the first Seattle light rail train because of only using one TBM, based on a budget limitation.)

  7. The Second Tunnel will be finished in the next 2-4 weeks, slightly behind schedule for preventative maintenance. The First tunnel was finished in Mid-June and was relaunched in Early-July. Needless to say, there is no risk of delay to Central Link because of the Beacon Hill tunnel.

    I also recently found out a second TBM will be purchased but a third one will be left out.

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