Project update: East Link Extension

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Project update


The Sound Transit Board System Expansion Committee today received a detailed briefing on continuing efforts to identify new opening dates for current Link construction projects, including the East Link project. This email provides an update on work to open these extensions as quickly as possible.

Since April, Sound Transit has been flagging delays affecting not only the East Link project but also the Downtown Redmond, Lynnwood and Federal Way Link projects.

“Within about the next four years, our carbon- and congestion-free light rail system will more than double from 26 to 62 miles and from 25 to 50 stations,” said Sound Transit Interim CEO Brooke Belman. “While we are on a path to fully resolve impacts of COVID-19, the concrete delivery strike and our construction challenges, we have more work to do before we can reliably establish opening dates. We will work tirelessly with our contractors to complete these extensions as rapidly as possible without compromising on safety or quality.” 

On East Link these challenges center around construction quality and durability concerns with plinths, or raised concrete structures, that support the tracks in key sections of the alignment.

While there is no doubt in Sound Transit’s success becoming the first agency to run light rail across a floating bridge, the agency has been closely analyzing concerns related to pre-cast concrete plinth blocks on the bridge segment. We are pleased that preliminary investigation results during July and August suggest that while some of the blocks have hairline cracks, the blocks do not need to be replaced.

However, on both the east and west sides of the bridge, the contractor’s work to fix problems with cast-in-place concrete plinths supporting the tracks has led to the identification of further challenges. These include issues with mortar pads, rebar placements and track fasteners, which the contractor has agreed to fix by re-casting the plinths to ensure the long-term reliability and safety of the extension. Details of the East Link issues can be found in the below-linked memo.

Continuing work is required to identify new project opening timelines for the four projects, which must include time for activation work once construction is complete. While the East Link extension was planned to open in mid-2023, construction challenges are currently projected to delay the completion by at least a year. An upcoming programmatic review will assess rail activation sequencing and time requirements to support the identification of new opening timeframes.

Identifying new opening timelines requires continuing work to resolve project risks, as well the mentioned programmatic review that is now getting underway. Sound Transit will maintain intensive focus on these tasks and opening these projects as rapidly as possible without compromising their safety and quality. Action plans responding to challenges with all four of the current projects are summarized in a presentation provided at today’s meeting and a detailed memo.

For more information, please contact the East Link Community Outreach team at (206) 398-5300 or

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