LRT seattle Photo: Sound Transit

University of Washington’s new light rail station launches next Saturday, March 19th after 20 years in the making. The underground station is located next to Husky Stadium and the platforms are big enough to handle game day crowds. Elevators and escalators connect the platforms to the nearby campus, UW Medical Center and surrounding neighborhoods. A new pedestrian bridge allows walkers and bikers to avoid traffic by connecting the station to upper campus and the Burke-Gilman Trail. From here, the ride to downtown is eight minutes and the airport 46 minutes, reports Sound Transit. Artist and UW alum Leo Saul Berk integrated nearly 9,000 square feet of lovely custom-designed perforated metal panels into the station’s artwork.

UW Station and Capitol Hill Station also opening next weekend combined with the Angle Lake park-and-ride station opening at SeaTac this fall are projected to add 45,000 weekday passengers by 2021, for a total of 80,000 in a 21-mile system. The 3.15-mile tunnel project cost a total of $1.8 billion and links Westlake, Capitol Hill and UW, including the stations and 27 railcars. Federal funding made up $813 million of the budget.

The new transit will open up opportunities for commuters who want to live in an area more affordable than the neighborhood where they work. No more gas, traffic and parking tickets for these light rail riders. It’s a $2.25 adult fare from UW to Capitol Hill Station, maxing out at $3.25 to reach Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. All trips are $1.50 for low-income residents using the ORCA LIFT fare card. A Seattle-area household that exchanges a newer-year car for a transit pass can save up to $10,930 a year, compared to single-passenger driving into downtown, according to the American Public Transportation Association.

So what’s next? Sound Transit 3 is a $20 billion plan that could create lines to Everett, Redmond, Kirkland, Eastgate, Federal Way, Tacoma, Ballard and West Seattle, relieving the traffic burden for even more commuters. The measure would cost households, on average, nearly $400 in yearly property, car tab and sales-tax increases. The measure will be on the ballot this fall.

Check out the new light rail for yourself this weekend! The launch party is set to include live music, food vendors, a game zone for kids and more. For a full line up of light rail launch events, go to the ulink2016.org website.

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