EVERETT—The Economic Alliance of Snohomish County held a Coffee Chat event with local leaders on February 6 to discuss key transportation projects within Snohomish County, including the Lynnwood Link Extension, offering an update on developments shaping the county’s transportation landscape.
The event was hosted by Wendy Poischbeg, Interim President and CEO of the Economic Alliance, featuring a panel consisting of: Snohomish County Executive Dave Somers, Everett Mayor Cassie Franklin, Lynnwood Mayor Christine Frizzell, Community Transit CEO Ric Ilgenfritz, Executive Director of Planning Environment and Project Development for Sound Transit Don Billen, Executive Project Director for Lynnwood Link Randy Harlow, and North Corridor Development Director for the Everett Link Extension Eric Widstrand.
Transportation Update: Sound Transit Updates
First to speak was Don Billen, representing Sound Transit, who updated that the transportation projects approved during the 2008 Sound Transit 2 ballot measure are now under construction and will be opening within the next few years. Additionally, the transportation agency is in the planning process from the approved 2016 ballot measure which includes expanding Light Rail service to Everett, south to Tacoma, west connecting West Seattle and Ballard, and a line between Kirkland and Issaquah.
For its east side Light Rail service, between Bellevue and Redmond, Sound Transit is in need of a second operations and maintenance facility (OMF). Currently the transportation agency has one OMF just south of downtown Seattle but to support buildout to the east side, to Lynnwood and Federal Way, a second facility is needed to support its expanded fleet.
An OMF is where light rail trains go 24 hours a day, 365 days a year for cleaning and repairs. To build this new facility, ST need approximately 60 to 70 acres near an operating Link line. The agency is building a second facility in Bellevue but is currently looking north of Seattle, near Lynnwood most likely, to build another.
Sound Transit operates two Light Rail lines, one connecting Seatac Airport to Northgate (soon to be Lynnwood) and another in Tacoma, running from downtown to the Hilltop neighborhood. In Snohomish County, Sound Transit’s primary transportation line is an express commuter bus service that connects the county with nearby King County – a project in partnership with their partners at Community Transit.
Sound Transit’s Lynnwood Light Rail station is scheduled to open later this year, either late summer or early fall, adding 14 new stations and expanding service from Lynnwood to Northgate over 8.5 miles of new track. In 2025 the Lynnwood line will be expanded further to connect with ST’s Bellevue OMF facility.
Opening in 2037 through 2041, Light Rail will be expanding to Everett which will be the longest Light Rail extension yet at 16.3 added miles.
Separate to Light Rail, Sound Transit will also be opening Stride Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) service from 2027 through 2029, which will utilize completely electric vehicles with three different lines: S1 line connecting Bellevue to Burien, the S2 line connecting Bellevue to Lynnwood, and the S3 line connecting Shoreline to Bothell.
“Light Rail gives us a transportation option in the region that moves us away from automobiles. I’ve used it a number of times and it’s really a quality of life option to move around the region freely and have the option to do so,” said Snohomish County Executive Dave Somers. “It also connects our centers around the region – centers of commerce, work, employment – and strengthening those bonds. As we grow as a region we need to make sure those centers are connecting and functioning and people can get to and from them easily. The third reason is energy efficiency. As we look for ways to reduce our carbon footprint in our transportation system, light rail really helps us in that drive to move efficiently.”
Much like the Economic Alliance with Poischbeg stepping in the role of Interim CEO following Gary Clark’s retirement, Sound Transit is also currently going through a leadership transition. Sound Transit’s new Interim CEO is Goran Sparrman bringing with him 30-years of experience working in the region including for the Seattle Department of Transportation as well as the City of Bellevue Department of Transportation.
Sound Transit serves King, Pierce, and Snohomish Counties – a region of over 3 million people and 40% of the state of Washington’s population. What’s more, population forecasts estimate the region could grow to nearly 4 million by 2040. Sound Transit is governed by the state’s Transportation Department as well as an 18-member board including County Executive Somers, Everett Mayor Franklin, and Lynnwood Mayor Frizzell.
Transportation Update: Community Transit Updates
Ric Ilgenfritz was next to update the panel on its 2024 and Beyond Network, a plan adopted in 2022 that will restructure Snohomish County bus service to connect with Sound Transit’s planned Link Light Rail expansions.
The first of these is the Swift Orange Line, opening March 30, which will connect Edmonds College Transit Center to McCollum Park Park and Ride in Everett with stops in Lynnwood and Mill Creek. The line will have buses every 10-minutes, Ilgenfritz said.
Community Transit presently operates a Blue Line on the Highway 99 corridor, and the Green Line on Airport Road and 527 corridors, which will be expanded into downtown Bothell to connect with Sound Transit’s Stride BRT system.
“We’re creating a network that flows commuters into those services across the county lines and provides multiple opportunities for people to move around both counties,” said Ilgenfritz. “This should be a game changer, making new connections, new frequency and new reliability for every community within Snohomish County.”
Ilgenfritz continued that ridership is returning to pre-pandemic levels within its existing transportation services but the key to ridership is frequency stating “when people know a bus is coming they’re more likely to want to use it.”
Also coming in the coming months are a series of Community Transit express routes, called the 900 series, which will be connecting to new Lynnwood Link Light Rail station to several communities throughout Snohomish County.
Community Transit will be changing its 400 and 800 routes, which run through downtown Seattle, to encourage riders to transfer to the Light Rail station for service into Seattle. The transfer, Ilgenfritz admitted, could be seen as an inconvenience to some riders but comes with a greater improvement to reliability and travel time to get riders off of Interstate 5 into the rail system.
Although service in downtown Seattle will be compromised Ilgenfritz reiterated that Community Transit will be increasing overall frequency across Snohomish County.
Following both Community Transit and Sound Transit’s presentation the Coffee Chat, per tradition, was open to community engagement – allowing its audience to participate in a Q and A session with the officials participating in the event.
The Coffee Chat was sponsored by the Boeing Company.