Federal Way Link, the last of the core ST2 light rail projects, has finally broken ground. In lieu of the traditional ceremony with elected and community leaders speaking from a podium and tossing dirt, Sound Transit has chosen a pandemic-friendly alternative: a virtual groundbreaking.
Sound Transit’s virtual groundbreaking (linked above) has short videos from many local officials and representatives from businesses and organizations like the Multi-Service Center and the Federal Way Black Collective. The golden shovels, a hallmark of the regular groundbreakings, remain and are handed off with some nice cuts in the video.
When it opens in 2024, Federal Way Link will extend light rail service on the Link “1 Line” by 8 miles through South King County with three stations. It is expected to cost $3.1 billion, with almost half of costs covered by federal grants and loans. By 2026, Sound Transit estimates that 34,000 daily riders will use this section of the Link network.
Construction on Federal Way Link has, however, been underway for a few months amid the pandemic. The Star Lake Park-and-Ride (future site of South 272nd Street Station) closed in late March, several buildings in downtown Federal Way have been demolished, and trees along I-5 are being removed. Due to the design-build contract used on the project, design work for stations has also been continuing in parallel with construction preparation.
Federal Way Link will likely be the last virtual groundbreaking for Sound Transit, as there is now a considerable gap before the first major ST3-only projects are set to launch (even before accounting for budget-related delays). It remains to be seen if Northgate Link’s planned late 2021 opening will escape the full brunt of the pandemic, or if it will have a subdued opening like BART’s recent expansion to San Jose.