The Sound Transit Board’s choice to proceed with a west-side running alignment for 112th Avenue in Bellevue wasn’t the only big news yesterday. The Board also moved to authorize (PDF) expanded Sounder service for the South Line. The expansion will cost $185 million in an agreement with BNSF as part of ST2 funding, and in turn will get four new daily round-trips between Seattle and Tacoma, increasing the current 9 round-trips to a total of 13 round-trips.
The really exciting news doesn’t stop there. According to the Sound Transit news release, the “perpetual” rail easements purchased from BNSF also open a window of flexibility:
The expanded service will add four peak direction, peak hour trains to the Seattle-to-Tacoma Sounder schedule, with flexibility to run reverse commute and midday service based on ridership demand.
For those of us who’ve been saddened by freight priority snuffing out midday Sounder service, this possibility is good news. According to the motion, the purchase of the first easement will come by the end of this month, with the second easement’s purchase by January of next year. This will allow ST to incrementally add service, with the first round-trip slated for service by July 2012, the second by fall 2014, the third by summer 2015, and the last sometime in 2016.