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Light rail coming to Bellevue, Redmond sooner than expected

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Eastside residents can look forward to light rail stations between Bellevue and Redmond opening in early 2024.

The Sound Transit Board voted Thursday to open the East Link "starter line."

"The soonest we could open East Link starter line is in spring of 2024, and Lynwood Link would follow in the fall of 2024," said Moises Gutierrez with Sound Transit.

RELATED: Where does Amazon want Sound Transit to build a new Seattle light rail station?

The Eastside's new light rail is called a "starter line" because the full route to Seattle will not be opening, rather just a portion of it — eight stops between south Bellevue and Microsoft's campus in Redmond. Initial service levels will be 16 hours per day, with 10 minutes between trains. Sound Transit expects about 6,000 average weekday riders on this starter line.

The remaining stretch, which goes across Lake Washington, won't be ready until at least 2025 (it was originally supposed to open this year). This portion has faced construction woes, specifically with the tracks over the I-90 floating bridge, which have delayed the full opening.

When voting to open the Eastside's starter line, board member and Everett Mayor Cassie Franklin added an amendment to ensure that the Bellevue-Redmond starter would not pull resources from completing an extension between Northgate and Lynnwood. Franklin argues that the Lynnwood line will have eight times the ridership of the East Link.

Sound Transit estimates that the Northgate to Lynnwood stretch of light rail will average 25,000 to 35,000 riders on weekdays.

Delays aside, the project is still within its $3.7 billion budget, approved by area voters in 2008.

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