Project update: West Seattle and Ballard Link Extensions

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Project update

Sound Transit Board realignment action

As someone following our progress on the West Seattle and Ballard Link Extensions project, you’ve probably heard a lot about the Sound Transit Board’s ongoing work to advance our voter-approved projects in a challenging fiscal environment.

In early 2020, the Board launched a process called realignment to review options for addressing the significant affordability gap affecting our future transit expansion projects not yet under construction. Most recently forecasted at $6.5 billion, this gap means that completing many of these projects on their original schedules won’t be affordable.

On Thursday, Aug. 5, the Board adopted a new flexible framework to support moving forward with projects as rapidly as possible. Learn more about the Board’s action in our Platform blog post.

Updated WSBLE project timeline

Based on current revenue projections and cost estimates, the Board’s adopted plan identifies:

  • 2032 as the timeframe we can afford to open service from SODO to Alaska Junction.
  • 2037 as the timeframe we can afford to open service to Smith Cove (including the second downtown tunnel).
  • 2039 as the timeframe we can afford to open service to Ballard.

However, the Board also identified a more ambitious target of achieving a 2037 service opening to Ballard through intensive efforts to secure expanded funding and control project costs. This target schedule would require an estimated $1.8B in additional funding and/or savings, and intensified commitments of support from partners at the local, state and national levels.

We’ll track fiscal challenges very closely as we work with the community and partner jurisdictions to advance this project. The project’s ultimate timeline will come into greater focus as we advance the environmental review process and project design, including examining cost-saving options.

Real estate, construction costs continue to surge

Due to steeply rising real estate prices and other construction expenses, projects currently in early planning and design, including WSBLE, are seeing significant cost estimate increases. In early 2021, Sound Transit commissioned independent experts to assess the agency’s cost estimates. Their findings validated the appropriateness of the agency’s updated cost estimates for current levels of project design.

As design work advances, we’ll continually refine cost estimates for this and other projects in planning, drawing on recommendations from the independent reviewer. Sound Transit’s finance department, with the guidance of outside economists, will regularly update revenue and inflation projections, with hopes that recent improvements to economic and revenue forecasts continue.

Learn more about the realignment process and increased cost estimates at

Next steps

Throughout the Sound Transit Board’s realignment process, staff continued to advance WSBLE planning efforts. Next steps for the project include:

  • Publishing the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (Fall 2021).
  • Collecting public feedback on the DEIS (Fall 2021).
  • Sound Transit Board confirming or modifying the preferred alternative (early 2022).

We hope you’ll continue to participate in our work to move this important project forward.

Questions? Please feel free to reach out to the community engagement team at or 206-903-7229.

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More project info:
Get in touch: or (206) 903-7229