Rail cars finished in Everett

EVERETT – Call it Dreamliner Light.

Much like Boeing’s 787 jet is being put together here at the Boeing Co.’s Everett plant, so too is Sound Transit’s new fleet of light-rail cars.

Pieces of the rail cars that will haul people between downtown Seattle and Seattle-Tacoma International Airport in 2009 are also being built around the world, with final assembly occurring on Boeing’s sprawling Everett campus.

There are 30 highly skilled people hired to put the rail cars together in what was recently an empty 110,000-square-foot building on the Boeing campus.

Snohomish County Executive Aaron Reardon called the recent opening of the assembly line symbolic.

First, because it’s a reminder the county could get its own light rail route in 2027 if voters approve a second round of mass transit projects in the fall. Second, because it lets businesses know Snohomish County is a good place for manufacturing.

“Businesses can locate in Snohomish County and be successful,” said Reardon, a Sound Transit board member. He made his comments while walking through and around partially assembled light-rail cars.

“We have space, we have land and we have infrastructure,” he said.

Sound Transit was happy to show off its new rail-car assembly plant on Monday, a production line that will produce two 95-foot long rail cars a month until it creates a fleet of 35 cars over the next three years.

The cars are shipped to Everett in cargo tankers with the shell of the cars mostly intact, said Justin Garrod, project manager for Sound Transit.

Among the pieces installed in Everett are the wheels, seats and other equipment, and the propulsion system, Garrod said

The first rail car is set to roll out of the plant next month.

When it does, it will be loaded onto a semi-truck and hauled down I-5 to Seattle’s Sodo district for testing, said Skender Nezaj, site manager.

Sound Transit will have to build another 27 light-rail cars when service is extended to Seattle’s University District, said Joni Earl, Sound Transit’s CEO.

If voters say yes to a second round of Sound Transit projects that has been combined with a road tax package next November, light rail will be extended to near 164th Street SW in Lynnwood. It would also be extended to Tacoma and King County’s Eastside.

Earl said another 188 light-rail cars would have to be manufactured in Everett if Sound Transit 2 is approved.

So the new assembly plant could be around for a while.

Similar to Boeing’s Dreamliner, most of the components that make up a new light-rail car are manufactured at different places throughout the U.S., then sent to Osaka, Japan, where many are put together.

They are shipped to Everett for final assembly because of a “Buy American” requirement written into the Kinkisharyo International contract, said Geoff Patrick, a Sound Transit spokesman.

Federal grant money is being used to help pay for the light-rail fleet, which means a percentage of the rail cars must be built in the U.S. and that final assembly must take place in Sound Transit’s service district.

Each rail car has its own propulsion system, and can be driven alone, said Bruce Gray, a Sound Transit spokesman. It can carry 200 riders, with 74 seated.

Sound Transit plans to run two-car trains when service starts in 2009. Light-rail stations will have capacity for four-car trains.

Sound Transit’s new light-rail cars

The rail cars that will serve Sound Transit’s new light-rail line from downtown Seattle to Seattle-Tacoma International Airport are being manufactured in a warehouse at the Boeing Co.’s Everett campus. Service is scheduled to start in 2009.

Kinkisharyo International of Boston is assembling the rail cars.

Fleet size: 35. Two were assembled in Osaka, Japan. The remaining 33 will be assembled in Everett. The first rail car is set to roll out in June.

Size: Each rail car is 95 feet long. Trains will be two cars long when service starts and expand up to four cars.

Speed: Up to 55 mph

Passenger capacity: Each car can carry 200 riders with seating room for 74. There’s room for four wheelchairs and two bicycles on each car.

Number of riders: 45,200 daily riders by 2020.

Service: Trains will run every six minutes during rush hour and every 10 to 15 minutes during nonpeak periods. Trains will run from 5 a.m. to 1 a.m.

Trip time: Downtown Seattle (Westlake Station) to the airport will take 28 minutes with 13 stops.

Other: The trains are powered by electricity. They have both heating and air conditioning.

Source: Sound Transit

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