Sound Transit to open starter 2 Line in spring 2024

Aug. 25, 2023
The first portion of the East Link light-rail project will open with eight stations between the South Bellevue and Redmond Technology stations.

Sound Transit’s East Link light-rail extension project will take a phased approach to opening starting with eight stations in spring 2024. Opening of the initial 2 Line segment between South Bellevue and Redmond Technology stations was approved by the Sound Transit Board of Directors. The board also authorized up to $43 million from the existing East Link Extension $3.68 billion budget to fund the activities necessary to open the East Link Starter Line in spring 2024.

The final level of service on the initial 2 Line will be approved by the board as part of the 2024 Service Plan. The current proposal includes two-car trains operating every 10 minutes, 16 hours per day. The starter line will provide better connections within the Eastside communities of Seattle with ST Express bus routes such as the 542, 545, 550 and 554 providing connections between the 2 Line and the 1 Line until the East Link rail connection can be completed. Sound Transit anticipates the remaining section of the 2 Line will open in 2025.

“It’s an exciting step to connect more communities via fast, carbon-free Link light rail, and opening these stations on the Eastside is the opening act of the 2 Line,” said Sound Transit Board Chair and King County Executive Dow Constantine. “From Redmond to Bellevue, people have a new option to get to work, school and all the things that make this community special, and I’m excited to see what’s next when the 2 Line crosses Lake Washington in 2025.”

Getting the rest of the 2 Line ready

In a blog post further detailing the phased opening of the 2 Line, Sound Transit recognized the disappointment of not having a light-rail connection across I-90 within the expected timeframe but explained the agency’s “top priorities are quality and safety, and the tough reality is that quality takes time.”

A significant reason for the delay in the project was the discovered quality issues along the I-90 portion of the East Link Extension. Contractors demolished and reconstructed several concrete plinths, which support the structure of the rail line.

In December 2022, Sound Transit CEO Julie Timm outlined delays several light-rail projects, including East Link, were facing. However, the East Link Extension’s delay carried the potential to complicate openings of Lynnwood Link Extension and the Federal Way Extension because a new Operations and Maintenance Facility East (OMF East) in Bellevue, Wash., was to open as part of the East Link project. Without OMF East operational, Sound Transit would have lacked the maintenance and storage capacity to serve the Lynnwood and Federal Way extensions. The phased opening of the 2 Line is a solution to this issue.

“This incredible accomplishment required significant commitment and collaboration across the entire Sound Transit Team, with King County Metro who hires for and operates our service, and by our federal, state and local partners for every required review and approval,” said Timm. “It was seriously hard work to assess and then remove the barriers to accelerate opening of light rail on the Eastside by spring 2024, and there were many moments where it looked like this would be an impossible task in the time available to us. I am proud of the team’s unwavering dedication as Sound Transit continues to make history with the opening of each extension connecting the region through the largest transit expansion program in the country.”

About the Author

Mischa Wanek-Libman | Group Editorial Director

Mischa Wanek-Libman serves as editor in chief of Mass Transit magazine and group editorial director of the Infrastructure and Aviation Group at Endeavor Business Media. She is responsible for developing and maintaining the editorial direction of the group and is based in the western suburbs of Chicago.

Wanek-Libman has spent more than 20 years covering transportation issues including construction projects and engineering challenges for various commuter railroads and transit agencies. She has been recognized for editorial excellence through her individual work, as well as for collaborative content. 

She is an active member of the American Public Transportation Association's Marketing and Communications Committee and serves as a Board Observer on the National Railroad Construction and Maintenance Association (NRC) Board of Directors.  

She is a graduate of Drake University, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism and Mass Communication with a major in magazine journalism and a minor in business management.