You know, in an alternate timeline this would be a really big story.
Sound Transit was not able to complete all the work needed to fully reopen downtown light rail service as was planned, so Connect 2020 continues. That means train service will remain reduced downtown and riders will still need to change trains at Pioneer Square Station. See our previous story for more details on why and how that works.
This also means that bikes are still banned between International District/Chinatown Station and University Street Station. That ban was supposed to be lifted today. You can check out this helpful video by Robert Svercl and friends Bri and Nick for a video guide to biking around the light rail closure.
Another weekend closure will be required once a fix is found, but there is currently no schedule for that work. So stay tuned.
Of course, there may not be a need for that bike ban since light rail ridership has dropped so dramatically due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Overcrowding on trains is no longer the problem we need to worry about. Well, not for the same reason, anyway.
The Connect 2020 project is needed to connect the existing tracks to the under-construction line that heads to the Eastside via Judkins Park and I-90. That line is scheduled to open in 2023. But the agency wanted to do this work now to avoid disrupting service even worse once the U District, Roosevelt and Northgate Stations come online in 2021.
More details from Sound Transit:
Work to complete the construction joining new light rail to the Eastside into the existing system, known as Connect 2020, will require additional time to complete due to issues identified over the weekend. On Monday morning, Link light rail will continue to operate every 13-15 minutes and on one track in the downtown tunnel stations.
While completing final systems testing for the project, insufficient electrical resistance readings were discovered over a segment of newly installed track. The site of the problem has now been identified, and Sound Transit is working with its contractor to solve it.
Once repairs are complete, there will be another yet-to-be-determined closure of downtown Seattle stations in order to re-test and certify the new tracks.
With this extension of Connect 2020, light rail passengers should continue to pack their patience and:
- Allow extra time for their trip. Trains will run every 13-15 minutes and a transfer is still required at Pioneer Square; bicycle restrictions remain in effect.
- Pay attention to signage and direction from Sound Transit security.
- Sign up for Rider Alerts and go to https://connect2020.soundtransit.org/ for more information.
- And of course, wash hands frequently and stay home if you’re sick.
“We are building Eastlink to serve the people of Puget Sound for generations, and we will insist on building it right, end-to-end” said Peter M. Rogoff, CEO of Sound Transit. “We regret this further inconvenience for our passengers, especially during this difficult time, and thank them for their continued patience.”
When Connect 2020 construction is complete, the existing tunnel will be configured for East Link in preparation for 2023 when light rail expands to 10 new East King County stations. Before then, three new stations — U District, Roosevelt and Northgate — will begin service in 2021, boosting ridership and increasing the importance of completing this work now.
I commute from Othello to UW on weekdays and I saw ridership go down all of last week and today it was nearly empty on the morning commute (I catch 6:02ish train) and about the same in the afternoon at 3:30. So yes, I agree, if today is representative, people with bikes would have ample room to get across the Pioneer Square platform and to hang their bikes. I however, am not a Sound Transit representative and they might have a different perspective.
The question is how much will Sound Transit save because of this error by the contractor? The work is deficient, and there should be a penalty assessed that reduces the overall cost of the contract.