Published March 19, 2016 at King5.com
It's the project that no elected official is afraid to hitch their ride to.
On Saturday morning, the University Link light rail opened to the public, six months early and $200 million under budget. The 3.1 miles of track link Westlake in downtown Seattle to Capitol Hill and the University of Washington.
Mayor Ed Murray cut a ribbon at 10 a.m. Saturday, marking the first public use of the Capitol Hill station.
"I've had an experience with trains where they're not usually late," said young Max Connolly.
He was first in line at the station with his brother Jude and father Michael.
"Let's face it: the bus gets stuck in traffic," Michael Connolly said. "I take the 545 every day. As soon as it hits Capitol Hill it can take 45 minutes to get downtown. Now I can just switch off, get on the train and be there in 6 minutes."
Sound Transit estimates the ride from the University of Washington to downtown will be about 8 minutes; about half of that from Capitol Hill to Westlake. KING 5 timed the ride from Capitol Hill to downtown as about 3 minutes Saturday but that's not during rush hour.
"My husband and I live 4 blocks away so this is our train station," Phil Cash said at Capitol Hill. "We moved here 13 years ago when the streetscape was very different and this was a little pipe dream. it's a community event so I'm … celebrating the community."
On Friday, public officials, including Governor Jay Inslee and Seattle Mayor Ed Murray, got a sneak peek of the major transportation project. Pomp and circumstance were not in short supply as the U-Link pulled into Husky Stadium for the first time.
The stretch involves twin bored tunnels 300 feet under Volunteer Park.
The agency did not have the best tunneling track record, with the sinkhole problems and delays when tunneling through Beacon Hill for the first link and Bertha still top of mind; however, for the most part, the project burrowed through without a hitch.
"This agency has matured and we've gotten better and better at delivering these projects," said King County Executive Dow Constantine, chair of the Sound Transit Board.
Constantine says the cost savings will be passed onto the next phase of development.
"We're doing engineering that we weren't going to be able to do...all the way to Redmond, past Microsoft to Redmond to Federal Way," said Constantine.
The train is also right on time as Sound Transit 3 (ST3) goes to the voters. Expect this to be part of the argument from Constantine and others that voters should continue to leave the door open for expansion.