Sound Transit crews are nearly finished with the Mercer Island Station as the East Link project hits 50 percent completion. The station will be one of 10 between Seattle and Redmond served by the Blue Line in 2023. Kailan Manandic / staff photo

Sound Transit crews are nearly finished with the Mercer Island Station as the East Link project hits 50 percent completion. The station will be one of 10 between Seattle and Redmond served by the Blue Line in 2023. Kailan Manandic / staff photo

East Link hits 50 percent milestone: Blue Line to open in 2023

Sound Transit crews celebrated the 50 percent completion of East Link this month.

Work crews have reached the halfway point in constructing Sound Transit’s East Link extension that will launch service in 2023.

The announcement came in early April after the project hit several construction milestones as it progresses to the 14-mile light rail line that will connect Redmond, Bellevue and Mercer Island to Seattle’s existing light rail system. East Link, or the Blue Line as it will be called in 2023, will include 10 stations from Seattle’s International District to Judkins Park, across Interstate 90 to Mercer Island and south Bellevue, through downtown Bellevue to the Bel-Red area and end at Redmond Technology Station.

“East Link will connect people throughout the Eastside to employment centers in Redmond and Bellevue, providing them many more options in where they choose to live and work,” said Sound Transit Board chair and Redmond Mayor John Marchione. “I am excited to see the rapid progress being made on this vital transit option for our growing region.”

As of April, work crews have laid nearly one mile of track and 2.86 miles of elevated guideway, excavated a tunnel under Bellevue, built a bridge over Interstate 405, strengthened the Interstate 90 floating bridge and constructed half of the “long-span” bridge across I-90.

“For those of us who live or work on the Eastside, it’s been exciting watching light rail grow so visibly. Reaching this 50-percent milestone is a testament to the great partnerships with the cities of Mercer Island, Bellevue and Redmond,” said Sound Transit Board member Claudia Balducci, chair of the board’s System Expansion Committee and King County Council member. “In just a few short years, this system will give our neighbors, friends and visitors the transportation freedom to get around easily and affordably on light rail.”

The Blue Line’s estimated travel times are Mercer Island to downtown Bellevue 10 minutes, Mercer Island to the University of Washington about 20 minutes, South Bellevue to the Sea-Tac Airport about 50 minutes, and Redmond Technology to downtown Bellevue about 10 minutes.

Lines will run at 6-minute intervals during peak hours.

“The opening of the Blue Line will transform commuting for thousands of residents on both sides of Lake Washington,” Sound Transit CEO Peter Rogoff said. “People will trade unpredictable and ever-slower commutes for fast, reliable service no matter how bad the traffic or weather. We thank our outstanding project staff and contractors for their rapid progress.”

Work crews now look to the future as they prepare to meet 2019 milestones. According to Sound Transit officials, the project will need an extensive public awareness campaign in preparation for reduced light rail service coming in 2020, work crews will need to finish the I-90 track bridge, various infrastructure projects on the Eastside and lay miles more track.

The East Link project is one part of Sound Transit’s overall goal of connecting South Kirkland, Issaquah, Northgate, downtown Redmond, Shoreline, Mountlake Terrace, Lynnwood, Kent/Des Moines, Federal Way, West Seattle, Fife, Tacoma, Ballard Field and Everett by light rail all by 2041.

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