Expect major construction activity this spring as light rail construction kicks into high gear

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The much-anticipated Shoreline and Lynnwood extensions of Sound Transit’s Link Light Rail system are about to move off the drawing boards and into reality, bringing with them major construction activity, road closures, traffic delays, dust, noise and all the attendant challenges of living in the midst of a huge project that promises to revolutionize the way we get around the region.

At a well-attended Tuesday open house at Shorewood High School, Sound Transit demonstrated its commitment to community outreach with displays, maps and posters, and also provided several avenues for citizen participation and involvement. In addition, the evening included a PowerPoint presentation overview of the project that outlines what to expect in the coming months.

“The first activity folks are likely to notice will start in April in the Shoreline area, and will move north into Snohomish County this summer,” said Sound Transit spokesperson John Gallagher. “First steps will be removing trees and structures including some existing sound barriers along the I-5 corridor to clear the way for guideway construction.” (The guideway’ denotes the tracks and associated structures along which the trains run.)

“This will necessitate some road closures, most notably 5th Avenue Northeast, which will close sometime this spring as we construct columns to support an elevated section of the guideway,” Gallagher continued. “It will remain closed for most of the construction period.”

He went on to stress that noise abatement will be a big concern, and that as existing noise barriers along I-5 come down, temporary barriers will be put up to help dampen construction noise. “We’ve done noise testing,” he explained, “and for most folks these temporary barriers should be sufficient.” But for what Gallagher described as “the handful of folks who will be most affected,” Sound Transit will offer expanded measures including additional sound dampening barriers and white noise machines.

Sound Transit is currently replanting the area around guideways near Tukwila. Concentrating on native species, this revegetation effort will add four new trees for every one lost due to construction. (Sound Transit photo)

Tree replacement will also be a big deal. While overall Sound Transit will be cutting an estimated 5,300 trees, they will be planting more than 20,000 new ones, focusing on native species chosen for appropriate size. “We’ll concentrate on lower-growing trees close to the at-grade guideways,” Gallagher said, “but will also include medium to larger trees along elevated sections and as a backdrop to provide visual enhancement along the route.”

With the first trains scheduled to run in 2024, construction will be tight, well-organized, and busy.

“We plan to work from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays, with occasional additional night and Sunday work,” said Randy Harlow, Deputy Director of Construction. “The major construction should be mostly complete by 2022, at which point we’ll enter the system testing phase. Actual service is slated to start in 2024.”

Erin Taylor, who heads up the project’s community outreach activities, outlines how the public will be kept informed throughout the project.

Sound Transit stressed its commitment to public information and outreach throughout construction.  According to Erin Taylor, who heads up the project’s community outreach component, this includes providing advance notification of construction activity, having outreach staff on site, maintaining a safe and secure construction site, minimizing noise, dust and debris, keeping traffic moving and providing a 24-hour construction hotline.

There is also an online open house that offers opportunity for input, additional details about upcoming and future construction work, and information on the project team.  Citizens can also subscribe to email construction alerts here.

— Story and photos by Larry Vogel

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