For those of you who have the time or hang out near the University, Friday afternoon holds a special treat for you:

University Link Groundbreaking

March 06, 2009
2:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m.
Husky Stadium

Sound Transit
Sound Transit

The importance of starting to actually turn some earth is difficult to overestimate.  Once capital expenditures start being expended the logic of sunk costs makes it harder and harder for various public nuisances to stop the project.

The ridership on U-Link will be astronomical, and the increase in quality-of-ride over buses will be especially large.  University Link (and North Link after it) will also provide many opportunities for elimination, consolidation, truncation, or reduction in capacity of Metro bus routes, easing their long-term operating budget crisis.  This is a big moment for the region.

20 Replies to “University Link Groundbreaking Tomorrow”

  1. I have a question: if the ridership for U Link is so astronomical compared to the initial line, why didn’t they start with U Link? Too expensive? Doesn’t serve enough areas to get the political will? It seems like a logical first route to me (well, from the University to the maintenance base, including the DSTT).

    1. Because of a couple of things.

      First, the unknowns on the tunnel going north were greater and would take longer to resolve. Going south was simply easier and quicker.

      Second, going South would still tie the area with the second highest transit ridership in the State (the RV) and the airport to the area with the highest job density in the State (DT Seattle). It’s still a stealer route that would get full support from the Feds (as proven by ST).

      Third, the anti’s had an irrational fixation with getting to the airport. The South route quieted them at least until 9/11 and the decision to delay Airport Link. Now they are quiet again as Airport Link is scheduled to open only about 5 months after Central Link.

      I think history has proven ST correct on this one…

      1. “The anti’s had an irrational fixation with getting to the Airport…”??? Where did this notion come from?? The anti’s have always been fixated on killing rail transit, anywhere, anytime, once-and-for-all. They are only quiet again now that ST2 was approved, by a landslide margin, and rail transit is going to be built, their objections notwithstanding.

        Oh, and ULink is way beyond killing or delaying. Local funding came from the ST1 vote in 1996 and federal funds are now committed. It’s a done deal, no matter when the actual groundbreaking ceremony takes place.

      2. You are correct; the anti’s are never truly quiet. Even now they are still trying to derail ST via Governance Reform and various other means (for example various red herrings related to the I-90 floating bridge and capacity).

        My comments about Airport Link are mainly related to that period after the airport segment was delayed but construction really wasn’t in full swing yet – I’d loosely call this period “The Train to Nowhere Period”. For the period of several years that seemed to be their main foil against ST and it had significant resonance in both the press and various political circles. It was not a happy time for ST supporters.

        Thankfully those days are behind us, and the start of construction of U-Link and the passing of ST2 just accentuate that. The train has left the station.

    1. The most obvious explanation to me is that U-Link wouldn’t have got the astronomical ridership if it weren’t for the central line. You’ve got to provide both a starting point and a destination.

      1. If I recall correctly before the link reboot in 2000 or so the initial Link MOS was going to be from S. Lander to NE 45th.

        Now it is fairly obvious there is a large amount of ridership just between the U-District, Capitol Hill, Downtown, and the Stadiums. True the ridership is higher when you add in Beacon Hill, Rainier Valley, and the Airport. However I’m willing to bet Lander to 45th would have higher ridership than the Airport to Westlake line that will open this year.

        On the other hand I’m glad ST decided to build something NOW rather than dither around on the technical problems with First Hill and the Ship Canal crossing.

  2. So am I mistaken or is that picture from the groundbreaking for Phase II of Everett Station?

  3. This is Seattle. NEVER underestimate the power of the voters to kill a project that’s good for the city.

    SEE: Seattle Commons

    SEE: I-695, which decimated funding for transit and roads project that we are only now beginning to recover from.

    SEE: Seattle Monorail Project, which was “shovel ready,” with a fixed price contract, and a reliable and stable (if ultimately too small) tax source.

    1. U-Link would be fairly hard to kill at this point.

      Seattle Commons died after failing two votes and having its largest financial backer pull out. Sound Transit might have suffered a similar fate had the Prop 1 vote failed.

      If Sound Transit was able to survive the dark days of 1999-2002 it is likely to survive anything thrown at it prior to U-link opening. Thankfully there is no easy way to kill Sound Transit via initiative like there was with the monorail.

      1. All they will do is complain about just that, now initiative process for ST, means no accountability. Well, if people want a vote on everything like Switzerland, we might as well have their transportation system, oh, wait, that is part of what ST is trying to build!

    2. The Monorail Project was “shovel ready”…? Now that’s sure a case of selective memory.

      The Monorail Board received one bid that was way over estimate, and it took them 10 months of secret negotiations to strip most of the meat out of the project to get it down to a level that could conceivably be built. But even the bare-bones monorail line required use of Junk Bonds to finance, which pushed interest payments to astronomical levels — dooming the project.

      The Monorail Project died due to incompetence by board and management, not Seattle voters’ fickleness.

      1. The finance plan for the monorail was a joke. The board really needed to come clean with everyone when they realized it wasn’t going to be enough. Perhaps they could have salvaged something at that point by building only the North or South half of the green line.

  4. Why is it taking seven years to complete the line? Can’t it be done faster and complete by earlier, say 2014?

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