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Councilmember calls for light rail ‘starter line’ from Bellevue to Redmond

Sound Transit is exploring the option of starting light rail service on the Eastside despite delays in construction connecting the track to the main Seattle light rail line.

District 6 King County Councilmember Claudia Balducci expressed her excitement after taking her first trip on the newly completed light rail track from Bel-Red station at 130th street to Overlake Village Station in Redmond Thursday night.

She supports opening a “starter line,” which would just run from Bellevue to Redmond while waiting for work to be completed on the now-delayed East Link line from Seattle to south Bellevue.

“I’m even more excited at the prospect of opening an East Link starter line connecting Redmond to Bellevue ahead of opening the now-delayed East Link connection between South Bellevue and Seattle,” Balducci wrote in a press release. “Since I wrote a Seattle Times op-ed in August urging Sound Transit to explore this Eastside-only starter line, the concept has gained momentum with support from Eastside elected and business leaders and the public at large.”

Construction was delayed on the expansion to the Eastside light rail stations, which will add 14 miles of new track and 10 new stations, pushing back the opening date at least one year. The expansion was originally scheduled to be opened by mid-2023.

Sound Transit Board’s System Expansion Committee was informed of the delay in a meeting in August, with problems like complications from the COVID-19 pandemic, the concrete workers’ strike, and unexpected problems with the mortar pads, rebar, and fasteners.

When completed, South Transit said passengers would be able to utilize “almost 40 miles of fast, reliable light rail, from the Eastside to downtown Seattle and Northgate and to Sea-Tac Airport and Angle Lake.”

Daily ridership, including the downtown Redmond extension, is projected to be between 43,000 and 52,000 passengers by 2026.

Sound Transit is taking a look at the idea of having a starter line and plans to brief the King County Council on the possibility at a System Expansion Committee hearing Thursday.

This story was originally published on MyNorthwest.