The start of construction for Lynnwood Link is only weeks away, just over a decade since the project was approved by voters as part of the Sound Transit 2 package in 2008. The first inter-county Link trains are scheduled to arrive in July 2024, traveling on 8.5 miles of elevated and surface tracks along the side of Interstate 5 between Lynnwood and Northgate.
While a firm groundbreaking date has not been announced yet, Sound Transit has released detailed plans for the scheduled construction activities at and around each of the project’s four planned stations. While the status of Northeast 130th Street Station is still up in the air, the citizens of Shoreline, Mountlake Terrace, and Lynnwood will have easy access to their stations once opening day arrives, but will have to deal with varying levels of disruption over the next five years.
The first step for any major construction project is, of course, preparing the land – in this case through demolition of existing structures. Since Lynnwood Link is mostly running along Interstate 5 on WSDOT right-of-way, the land takings have been minimal, but still relatively controversial. Along with dozens of homes whose land will be used for the relocated freeway sound wall, construction at Lynnwood Link also necessitated the demolition of a furniture store, a gas station, and the beloved Black Angus steakhouse.
Among the greatest casualties of light rail construction, according to recent media coverage ($), are some 5,300 trees that will be cleared away along the corridor over this summer, the majority of which would be in Mountlake Terrace (2,300). The tree canopy provides a sound buffer for Mountlake Terrace, while also creating a dramatic backdrop for drivers as they drive along the freeway that cut through tens of thousands (if not millions) of older trees when it was opened in 1965. Sound Transit will plant over 20,000 total trees along Lynnwood Link as work progresses, including shorter varieties that would not interfere with rail operations, and plans to maintain them for 13 years.
Next comes the relocation of overhead and underground utilities, which is anticipated to take until late 2020 for some areas, as Snohomish PUD, Seattle City Light, and telecom companies all have to tip-toe around each other’s schedules while moving road closures to the weekend or off-peak hours. A long section of 5th Avenue Northeast between 130th and 145th streets on the west side of the Jackson Park Golf Course will be closed to vehicle traffic later this year to make way for column work, but a pedestrian path will remain open. Other disruptions, namely reduced space at the Northeast 145th and Mountlake Terrace park-and-rides, will be mitigated by the opening of temporary commuter lots by early summer. Mountlake Terrace’s temporary lot will be located at the site of a demolished subdivision and will include several bays for buses while the transit center loop is closed for Link construction.
By November, the two contractors for Lynnwood Link will have begun drilling for future column placement and excavation of the retaining walls and track beds that will carry the at-grade sections of track. Over the winter, work will also begin on the stations at Northeast 185th Street and Mountlake Terrace, while Lynnwood Transit Center starts in late 2020 and Northeast 145th Street rounds out the quartet with an early 2021 start. By the summer of 2022, the columns and girders will have been set in place and topped with rails, reaching the stage that East Link is currently at. Heavy construction will have wrapped up by spring 2023, in time for several months of system testing along the guideway.
Trains are planned to begin regular service in July 2024, but the published schedule also has plenty of float time that could move the date up by several months; Community Transit is also planning a yet-unrevealed restructure that would coincide with the opening of Lynnwood Link and include the debut of a third Swift bus rapid transit line. Lynnwood Link would also connect with the SR 522 “Stride” bus rapid transit line to be built by Sound Transit, and will also be the catalyst for a new bicycle and pedestrian trail that the City of Shoreline plans to build under the elevated guideway.
Sound Transit is hosting an open house tomorrow night from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Lynnwood Convention Center to talk about upcoming light rail construction that will affect Lynnwood and Mountlake Terrace. With the faster pace of construction expected for Lynnwood Link, and its high visibility from Interstate 5, the easiest way to observe and gawk at the future Link guideway and stations will be via the regularly-scheduled double-decker buses on Community Transit and Sound Transit Express routes heading north to Snohomish County. The two stations at Mountlake Terrace and Lynnwood should be especially easy to visit for sidewalk superintendents, with regular bus service expected to be maintained in some form for the entire duration of construction.