UW Today

May 16, 2011

‘For our community and our economy: U-Link light rail construction launched

News and Information

Sen. Patty Murray prepares to let fly a specially marked bottle of champagna --  Cuvee le Husky, May 2011 -- to christen 'Togo' and 'Balto,' the two tunnel-boring machines that will carve their underground way to Capitol Hill.

Sen. Patty Murray prepares to let fly a specially marked bottle of champagna -- Cuvee le Husky, May 2011 -- to christen "Togo" and "Balto," the two tunnel-boring machines that will carve their underground way to Capitol Hill.Mary Levin

A new era for transportation at the UW began Monday with the official launching — amid speeches, smiles and blustery weather — of the two tunnel-boring machines that will carve out a new light rail link from the UW to Capitol Hill.

Dignitaries including Sen. Patty Murray, UW Interim President Phyllis Wise, Seattle City Council Chairman Richard Conlin and State Sen. Ed Murray gave brief remarks at the construction site on Montlake Avenue alongside Husky Stadium at 10 a.m. Monday.

“Its great to be here in November with all of you,” Murray joked as autumn-like winds swept the scene. “And its great to be here as we take this important step forward for our community and our economy.”

Murray offered thanks for the hard work going into the project and said that “from the very beginning, it has moved forward with the needs of the community front and center.”

A burst of blue confetti over the site marks the official launching of the tunnel-boring machines that will create the new U-Link Light Rail Line. Each of two tunnel-boring machines is 21 feet in diameter, 330 feet long and weighs 679,000 pounds.

A burst of blue confetti over the site marks the official launching of the tunnel-boring machines that will create the new U-Link Light Rail Line. Each of two tunnel-boring machines is 21 feet in diameter, 330 feet long and weighs 679,000 pounds.Mary Levin

Being celebrated were twin tunnel-boring machines that will cut out the 3.15-mile route from downtown Seattle north to the UW, with stations at Capitol Hill and at the UW campus. The two machines are named “Togo” and “Balto,” for the canine heroes of a 674-mile dogsled relay in 1925 that brought badly needed medicines from Anchorage to Nome, Alaska.

“We know that this community needs more transportation options and this project is going to deliver. We know we need to address congestion, and this project is going to deliver,” Murray said. “We know we need to give Seattle area commuters good, environmentally friendly alternatives to driving, and this project is going to deliver. And we all know that we desperately need to create jobs and boost the economy here in Seattle, and this project is going to deliver.”

Conlin, who spoke first, called Togo and Balto “the two biggest Huskies in Seattle.” He said: “Once they start digging to Capitol Hill they will be out of sight for 14 to 18 months, working between 100 and 300 feet underground. And with their sophisticated onboard technology, theyll reach the Capitol Hill Station within an inch of being on track — a pretty amazing feat.”

Conlin added that by 2030 U-Link alone is predicted to add 70,000 boardings a day to the light rail system. “From here well have a one-seat ride to Bellevue, Sea-Tac Airport and north to Northgate and Lynnwood.”

And when the U-Link Light Rail line starts up in 2016, Conlin said, “The ride from here to downtown Seattle will be just six minutes.”

A very special vintage: May, 2011.

A very special vintage: May, 2011.Mary Levin

Interim UW President Phyllis Wise said: “That this is coming about while Husky Stadium is being renovated and while the triangle project is also going on is a feat that I think no one ever thought would come together at this time. But when we are done, it will mean that we will have an economically sustainable and an environmentally sustainable way for 70,000 people to come on to the UW campus or pass through the UW campus — our patients,  our athletic fans, our students, our staff and our leadership will be able to easily come and go from the University.”

Wise said despite the slumped economy, “it is a time to invest in these key things that we must have for the long-term future of our community, our neighborhood and the state.”

Murray sounded a similar note, saying that though spending does need to be cut, “As any business owner would tell you today, even in the worst of times you can never stop investing in your future. If you dont make the smart investments you need today to keep your business running and growing, you may as well close up your shop today.”