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Rail News: Passenger Rail

Sound Transit inks BNSF pact to add Sounder trains, picks preferred East Link route alternative


Last week, Sound Transit’s board authorized a $185 million purchase agreement with BNSF Railway Co. that will enable the Seattle agency to expand Sounder commuter-rail service by offering four additional daily round trips.

The BNSF deal provides the agency easement rights in perpetuity for four additional trains. The expansion from nine to 13 round trips per day might begin in July 2012 with a first new round trip added to the Seattle-to-Tacoma, Wash., Sounder schedule, according to Sound Transit. Other additional trains then would be launched in fall 2014, summer 2015 and sometime in 2016.

Meanwhile, Sound Transit’s board also defined a preferred alternative for the East Link light-rail project by selecting specific configuration options for a future route on 112th Avenue South in Bellevue, Wash.

In April, Sound Transit and the city of Bellevue signed a term sheet to identify up to $75 million in project savings to afford a potential downtown Bellevue tunnel alignment which was not part of the original project budget. The city agreed to provide up to $150 million in right of way, in-kind services and other means to reduce project costs.

The preferred alignment runs about 18 miles east from downtown Seattle to Mercer Island and South Bellevue, crossing Lake Washington in the center roadway of I-90. The first 14 miles to Redmond are funded for construction and estimated to cost $2.4 billion with a surface alternative in downtown Bellevue, and $2.6 billion with a tunnel. The East Link would connect Mercer Island, Bellevue and Redmond to the Link light-rail system that opened last year between downtown Seattle and Sea-Tac Airport, and connect with the University Link line from downtown Seattle to the University of Washington opening in 2016.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 7/26/2010