Since early this year, we’ve noticed that Sound Transit’s quarterly Link progress reports (pdf) show University Link with a lot of padding in the schedule – 169 days of what they call “float” (see page 13).
At today’s Sound Transit board meeting, staff presented a plan (pdf) to study how early University Link can open, and work with contractors and Metro to implement it! While we’ve noticed this float for a long time, this is the first time Sound Transit has officially confirmed the possibility, even tweeting it.
If University Link does open five months earlier than the currently expected September 24th, 2016 date, as early as mid-April by my count, it could mean a lot for a 2016 Sound Transit 3 measure. The early open could boost ridership, impacting living choices for students and employees starting at UW for the 16-17 school year, as U-Link would already be in operation when students make their living arrangements. A great September ridership number would be a great news item during a campaign. And, of course, the more people ride grade separated rail, the more they want.
This is no small feat – the other similarly sized projects in our region, WSDOT’s SR-520 bridge replacement and SR-99 tunnel, are both plagued with overruns and delay. Sound Transit is reaffirming today that under Joni Earl, they’re the most capable construction management outfit in the region.