Tunnel Cell Service Delayed

Atomic Taco (Flickr)

Back in August we wrote about Sound Transit and Metro adding cell service to the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel (DSTT) by the end of 2016. Well it’s January 3rd, and there is still no service from Westlake to International District. When asked about the delay, Sound Transit gave a relatively cryptic response, indicating an unspecified delay of 1-4 months, with a new goal of “early 2017” for the DSTT and “late 2017” for Beacon Hill:

DSTT tunnel installation (Westlake to International District) is now at 95% completion; target for DSTT install completion and commissioning: early 2017. Once cellular service in the DSTT is up and running, construction for the Beacon Hill tunnels will begin, with completion and service startup at/through Beacon Hill targeted for late 2017. Note these timelines are contingent on available construction/installation resources. As the team continues making progress on installation, we’ll communicate more specific timelines to riders.

When pressed for a reason for the delay, Sound Transit then indicated that labor issues as the culprit:

We only have a couple of hours in the tunnels at time, so the length of time crews can work in the tunnel is limited. Also, IT is juggling multiple project priorities with limited staff. That said, given time and resource limitations, the team is making steady progress. (emphases mine)

Without further specifics, readers are left to speculate. The delay may be related to interagency inefficiencies, as a private vendor and a public agency (Sound Transit) are installing infrastructure in another agency’s tunnel (Metro). Perhaps this is presenting challenges relating to staffing and labor agreements? Another possibility is an unspecified technical problem that Sound Transit would rather not share publicly?

Whatever the reality, the wait isn’t expected to be too much longer (except for those at Beacon Hill). You should be able to check OneBusAway or swipe right on Tinder by the time spring rolls around.

What to Look for in 2017

Prep work for the North Portal vertf the Downtown Bellevue East Link tunnel (Sound Transit Photo)

2017 will be a much quieter year than 2016 for transit in greater Puget Sound. After opening 3 new Link stations in 2016 and nearly doubling ridership, 2017 begins the first of 4-5 years without major service additions. September will bring two more Sounder roundtrips, but that’s about it.

Sound Transit

Though less public facing than station openings, 2017 will be a year of exceptional intensity for Link construction, and for Sound Transit as a whole. Roosevelt and UDistrict Stations will break ground sometime in Q1, South Bellevue and Overlake P&R will close in Q1, the I-90 express lanes will close to cars in Junetwo-way HOV lanes will extend from Seattle to Bellevue, and East Link construction will begin in earnest in South Bellevue, Downtown Bellevue, Bel-Red, and Overlake.

Lynnwood Link should complete its design by the latter half of 2017, in time for a 2018 groundbreaking.  And with a new $54B mandate to extend high capacity transit regionwide, Sound Transit will begin staffing up for ST3 project development.

Originally scheduled for the end of 2016 but apparently delayed, cell and data service should extend throughout the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel (DSTT) early this year and Beacon Hill Station in late 2017 (more info tomorrow about this).

Your ST3 taxes will also begin collection, in 3 phases. ST3’s property tax hike begins today ($0.25/$1000 assessed), the 0.8% Motor Vehicle Excise Tax (MVET) begins in March, and the sales tax bump begins in April. Seattle’s new sales tax rate will be 10.1%, and areas within both the Community Transit and Sound Transit service areas will collect 10.4%.


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