Tree and brush clearing continues in Mountlake Terrace along I-5 in preparation for the light extension to Lynnwood slated to be completed in 2024. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Tree and brush clearing continues in Mountlake Terrace along I-5 in preparation for the light extension to Lynnwood slated to be completed in 2024. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

After trees fall, Lynnwood light rail construction looms

Watch for major work along I-5 after Sound Transit approved $1.5 billion in construction contracts.

SEATTLE — As crews continued to clear trees from the I-5 shoulders, Sound Transit’s governing board took huge steps Thursday toward filling that space with Lynnwood-bound light-rail trains.

The agency’s board of directors authorized their CEO to sign two major construction contracts totaling more than $1.5 billion. The agreements cover different legs of the future rail line from Northgate to south Snohomish County. If all goes as planned, Sound Transit’s Link trains will carry riders along that route within five years.

“We’re pretty excited about it,” said Snohomish County Executive Dave Somers, who serves on the transit agency’s board. “I think people have been noticing the trees coming down. You’ll start to see over the next year the actual guideways being built.”

The route from Northgate to Lynnwood extends 8.5 miles. Crews this spring began cutting down an estimated 5,300 trees along that path, denuding the green buffers between the freeway and neighbors. Recent work there has included building demolition and moving utilities as well.

One of the contracts approved Thursday would build out the guideway — the structures underneath the tracks — and stations from just south of the King-Snohomish County line up to the Lynnwood Transit Center. That work would go to Skanska Constructors L300.

This rendering shows the future Lynnwood City Center light-rail station. (HNTB/Jacobs)

This rendering shows the future Lynnwood City Center light-rail station. (HNTB/Jacobs)

The $817 million contract calls for 2.3 miles of elevated guideway and another 1.4 miles of track at grade. It also includes light rail stations and a garage at the Lynnwood Transit Center.

“The city of Lynnwood is already being transformed,” Somers said at Thursday’s transit meeting.

The city’s downtown area has seen a proliferation of high-density building in anticipation of light rail. New high-capacity bus lines are being planned to connect to the transit center.

The other contract approved Thursday went to a joint venture known as Stacy and Witbeck, Kiewit, Hoffman. The $789 million agreement would extend the light-rail network from Northgate to NE 200th Street in Shoreline, just south of the I-5 interchange at Ballinger Way. It includes about 1.5 miles of elevated guideway and 3 miles of at-grade guideways, with stations and garages at the two Shoreline stops.

Heavy equipment is parked in former residential lots along I-5 in preparation for the light extension to Lynnwood slated to be completed in 2024. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Heavy equipment is parked in former residential lots along I-5 in preparation for the light extension to Lynnwood slated to be completed in 2024. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

The 13 Sound Transit Board members who participated in Thursday’s meeting all supported the two contracts, along with a related budget transfer.

“I’d like to express my concerns with this project, but I don’t have any,” said Edmonds Mayor Dave Earling, one of the board’s three Snohomish County representatives.

The overall Lynnwood Link budget stands at $2.77 billion. Officials said they’ve maintained a comfortable cushion of $273 million in contingency after the most recent contracts.

Last year, finances were strained for the Lynnwood light-rail route. Sound Transit staff shaved project costs through moves such as shrinking parking stall widths by a half-foot and making aesthetic sacrifices. A garage at NE 185th Street in Shoreline was moved to the east side of the freeway to save money.

Sound Transit also managed to lock in nearly $1.2 billion in federal grants. That money had been in doubt because President Donald Trump’s administration didn’t include it in their mass transit agency budget.

Tree and brush clearing continues in Mountlake Terrace along I-5 in preparation for the light extension to Lynnwood slated to be completed in 2024. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Tree and brush clearing continues in Mountlake Terrace along I-5 in preparation for the light extension to Lynnwood slated to be completed in 2024. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Light rail between Northgate and Seattle’s University District is scheduled to start service in 2021.

Once Link trains are running to Lynnwood, riders should be able to catch one every four to six minutes. A trip from Lynnwood to downtown Seattle is expected to take about 28 minutes.

A groundbreaking ceremony is planned for Sept. 3 at the Lynnwood Transit Center.

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

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