Dignitaries and community members celebrate opening of Community Transit Swift Orange Line

A Swift Orange Bus ready to take its passengers to their next destination.

Under budget and ahead of schedule, Community Transit’s Swift Orange Line began service at 5:15 a.m. Saturday morning. Those who played a part in getting the Orange Line up and operating– that is, dozens of Community Transit employees, federal and state representatives, local leadership and many community partners – came to the line’s ribbon-cutting ceremony to celebrate. 

Snohomish County Sheriff Susanna Johnson (right) and her department provided security for the event.
The Swift Orange Line

The Orange Line runs through Lynnwood on an east-west route between McCollum Park and Edmonds College, connecting the Swift Blue and Green lines with a rapid transit bus that generally arrives every 10 minutes on weekdays and every 20 minutes on weekends. The line also stops at the Alderwood Mall and the Lynnwood Transit Center, which will connect riders to the incoming Lynnwood Link extension later this year. 

Community Transit CEO Ric Ilgenfritz

Community Transit CEO Ric Ilgenfritz led the celebration and remarks for the morning. 

Ilgenfritz said that the line’s opening was one of a “series of changes that are going to ripple across this region the entire year.” Among many others appreciated for their work through the event, Ilgenfritz thanked Community Transit staff and planners. 

Federal Transit Administration Acting Administrator Veronica Vanterpool

The Federal Transit Administration’s Acting Administrator Veronica Vanterpool said that her agency supports local agencies and state governments in their efforts to launch vital transportation projects like the Orange Line. The total cost of the project was $80 million, $68 million of which came from federal grants such as the Small Starts Grant and the American Rescue Plan Act. The project also received $5 million as part of the state’s Connecting Washington package and local sales tax approved by voters provided $10 million. 

“Providing high-quality, frequent transit service is the best way we know to get people where they need to go faster so they can work, visit family, receive health care  and shop,” she said. Vanterpool credited President Joe Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, calling it one of the biggest investments in public infrastructure in generations. 

U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen

U.S. Reps. Rick Larsen of Washington’s 2nd District, Suzan DelBene (1st District) and Kim Schrier (8th District) attended to speak about the rail, its funding and its benefits to their respective constituents. 

“In my district, every day is infrastructure day,” remarked Larsen, ranking member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. Larsen said that work could not stop and funding for the program would need to continue so commuters could have fast, affordable transportation.

U.S. Rep. Suzan DelBene

DelBene said that Community Transit was very important to the growth and wellbeing of the region as a whole. Although new transit lines and roads were the most obvious benefits of infrastructural funding, she  emphasized the importance of well-paying jobs for its workers. Schrier said the project was several years in the making and even her “east-of-east” constituents would benefit from the connections made by the Orange Line. 

Washington State Sen. Marko Liias

Washington State Sen. Marko Liias praised Community Transit for its long history of service. He described the “under budget and ahead of time” as a “hallmark” of the agency’s work. Liias, who serves as chair of the Senate Transportation Committee, said that the state government had pulled its weight by pulling in $10 million for each upcoming Swift project — including the future Gold and Silver lines — as part of the $17 billion Move Ahead Washington transportation program.

“Everyone deserves reliable, affordable transportation and when the mobility of our community increases, we see our economy grow and thrive right along with it,” Liias said.

Mountlake Terrace Mayor Kyoko Matsumoto-Wright (right) and Stanwood Mayor Sid Roberts (center) enjoying the celebrations
The Economic Alliance Snohomish County’s Wendy Poischbeg speaks with Edmonds College President Dr. Amit Singh.

U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, sent along remarks about the importance of the line. “Public transit connects people — parents heading to work, adult students heading to classes, businesses who will be accessible to more customers, and so many other Snohomish County commuters. With the launch of the Swift Orange Line, we will finally be able to connect Snohomish communities to the Lynnwood light rail station opening later this year,” Murray said.

Mayor Christine Frizzell commuted to the Lynnwood Transit Center on the Swift Orange’s electric bus.

Lynnwood Mayor Christine Frizzell, who serves on the Community Transit board as its secretary, said that she and others had eagerly anticipated the launch of the Orange Line. She noted that Lynnwood also benefited from the service of the Zip Alderwood shuttle, which provides short, inexpensive rides to fix the “first and last mile” problem — getting to and from transit stations and stops.

Community Transit Board Chair and City of Snohomish Councilmember Tom Merrill

Community Transit Board Chair and City of Snohomish Councilmember Tom Merrill said that the Swift would improve local service for residents by redeploying the nearly one third of its service currently dedicated to commuting to downtown Seattle. 

Washington State Secretary of Transportation Roger Millar

Washington State Secretary of Transportation Roger Millar congratulated attendees on the line’s completion and recalled the history of bus rapid transit ideas in Washington. He said that one focus of his work was to remove barriers and improve multi-modal access to high-capacity transit stations.

Snohomish County Executive Dave Somers

Snohomish County Executive Dave Somers recalled heading home from a Mariners game on the light rail, saying that although the team had lost, people were having a good time together. 

“This system brings people together. It’s so important for so many families, businesses and being able to connect the region,” said Somers, attesting that it was critical to maintaining the quality of life in Snohomish County.

Lynnwood City Councilmember Shirley Sutton (far left) at the ribbon cutting. Other Lynnwood councilmembers attending included Nick Coelho, Julieta Altamirano-Crosby, George Hurst and David Parshall.
Federal Transit Acting Administrator Veronica Vanterpool, center, cut the ribbon.

–Story and photos by Jasmine Contreras-Lewis

  1. Wonder how many of those politicians and government employees used public transportation to travel to and from that event.

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