Light rail construction continues at Northgate in Seattle. (Sue Misao / The Herald)

Light rail construction continues at Northgate in Seattle. (Sue Misao / The Herald)

Light rail loses some bells and whistles as it inches north

To cut costs, it will look less pretty and have smaller parking stalls as it enters Snohomish County.

LYNNWOOD — When it comes to stretching the light-rail network into south Snohomish County from north Seattle, there’s a lot in play.

Anyone interested in learning more about recent design changes aimed at cutting costs, or ongoing efforts to secure federal funding, can attend upcoming open houses. They’re scheduled for late June and July in Lynnwood and Shoreline. Another took place last week in Mountlake Terrace.

Sound Transit expects to award early major construction contracts for Lynnwood Link this fall, to keep the project on schedule to open in mid-2024, CEO Peter Rogoff told the agency’s board of directors last month.

The 8.5-mile extension would include stations in Lynnwood and Mountlake Terrace, with two more in Shoreline. New parking garages would add a combined 1,500 stalls.

Demolition is slated to start this summer on buildings in Lynnwood and other parts of the route, with major construction expected next year. The agency is working to buy or get easements for hundreds of properties in the path.

Contractors are well on the way to building a 4.3-mile light-rail extension from Husky Stadium to Northgate, on track to open in 2021.

Sound Transit officials started brainstorming cost-saving ideas for the future Lynnwood line last year after estimates came in about $500 million more than originally thought. Since then, engineers have identified about $190 million in potential savings. The hot local economy, which has driven up property costs and competition for contractors, are major factors in the increase, Sound Transit leaders have said.

The project’s current estimate is $2.77 billion.

One of the biggest savings —nearly $13 million — would come from moving the site of a planned parking garage along NE 185th Street in Shoreline to the east side of I-5, next to the future rail station. It had been planned for the west side of the freeway.

Another money-saver involves using a different type of concrete girder to support elevated portions of the guideway for the tracks. Engineers say the less expensive girders perform just as well as more expensive ones being used on Link segments at Northgate and points south, though they might not look as nice.

The city of Lynnwood worked with Sound Transit to whittle down costs for reconfiguring Lynnwood Transit Center.

“Most of the biggest savings are in areas that the public won’t notice,” Lynnwood community development director Paul Krauss said.

Changes there included eliminating the station’s original mezzanine design and reducing the amount of glass, Krauss said. Officials saved money in the parking garage by shrinking stalls to 8.5 feet wide, instead of the city’s usual 9-foot standard, he said.

Cost reductions at the planned 236th Street station in Mountlake Terrace include reducing the width of exit stairs and changing plans for decorative masonry.

Sound Transit continues to work on securing $1.17 billion in federal transit grants for Lynnwood Link. The Trump administration has sent mixed signals about whether it would follow through awarding the money. Congress has signaled its support, however, and authorized initial installments of the funding.

Noah Haglund: 425-339-3465; nhaglund@herald Twitter: @NWhaglund.

Sound Transit open houses

The regional transit agency is hosting a series of meetings to discuss cost-saving measures and other aspects of expanding the Link light-rail network to Lynnwood, planned to take shape over the next six years.

June 27, 6-8 p.m.: Shorewood High School, 17300 Fremont Ave. N., Shoreline.

July 25, 6-8 p.m.: Lynnwood Convention Center, 3711 196th St. SW, Lynnwood.

For more info: People who can’t make the meetings can find some of the same information online at

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