Start of Lynnwood light rail service delayed 4-6 months

LYNNWOOD — Light rail riders may have to wait another six months for service to start in Snohomish County in 2024.

Instead of a mid-2024 launch for the Lynnwood Link extensionit could be December.

Sound Transit staff also plans later dates for extensions east of Lake Washington, Federal Way and Lynnwood. They told the elected officials who make up the system expansion committee of the agency board of directors on the postponements expected on Thursday.

They cited the concrete delivery strike as the main reason for the delay. About 39,000 cubic meters of concrete were not delivered as planned, according to sound Transitenough to fill a line of concrete trucks that would stretch from Lynnwood to SeaTac International on I-5.

Agency staff reported in April that the strike could delay the start of light rail service.

The drivers’ strike affected the Lynnwood section of Northgate near the Snohomish county line. Stacy and witbeck, Kiewit and Hoffmanthe contractors building this part of the project have laid off dozens of workers while they wait for the strike to be resolved.

This downtime, in addition to some accumulated at the start of the pandemic, reduced the eight-month buffer built into the project.

Now Sound Transit staff estimate the Lynnwood light rail project needs another four to six months, but further disruptions could push back the service start date yet again.

“Obviously we’ve been trying to catch up,” Sound Transit spokesman John Gallagher said. “What you have to understand is that we weren’t the only project to miss deliveries. There was a backlog across the region.

Snohomish County Executive Dave Somers serves on the Sound Transit Board of Directors as one of three county representatives along with Everett Mayor Cassie Franklin and Lynnwood Mayor Christine Frizzell. He said a review of decision-making processes, particularly when issues arise, would help the council. He asked staff to explain their process for monitoring these projects to look for improvements.

“We have to catch these things up front,” Somers said. “I know this is also the desire of the staff and the contractor.”

East Link, a 14-mile extension from Seattle to Redmond with 10 new stations, was originally scheduled to open mid next year. But “persistent quality” issues with concrete baseboards and precast blocks on the Interstate 90 segment set it back a year or more.

“We don’t like to delve into delays that affect our work,” acting CEO Brooke Belman told the committee. “Every challenge you hear about today can be solved.”

About 200 feet of an embankment slipped nearly 9 feet during the Extension of the federal road, which caused a lane closure on I-5 southbound near Kent, Assistant General Manager Kimberly Farley said. It’s stable now, but Sound Transit executives want to re-evaluate the construction plan for this location between the freeway and a wetland.

Sound Transit executives assess risk and sequencing project schedules. It’s possible the Lynnwood light rail will come online before East Link and Federal Way if existing operations and maintenance facilities in Seattle can handle the extra cars and staff, Gallagher said.

“This is the nation’s most ambitious transit expansion project,” Gallagher said. “We are committed to providing a safe, high quality project for cyclists across the region.”

The Everett Link expansion planned for 2037 is not affected by these issues. Somers said he was confident Sound Transit would implement new processes to prevent something similar from happening.

“If we learn from mistakes, that bodes well,” Somers said. “We owe it to ourselves and to the public to learn from our mistakes,” Somers said.

An update on these issues is expected later this year.

Ben Watanabe: 425-339-3037; [email protected]; Twitter: @benwatanabe.

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