Sound Transit completes East Link Bellevue tunnel for light rail service


Sound Transit, a public transit agency in Seattle, Washington, has completed the civil construction works on the East Link Bellevue tunnel to connect the East Main and Bellevue Downtown stations.

The tunnel is expected to come online when East Link light rail service begins operations in 2023. It was construction by Atkinson Construction, which started work on the one-third mile-long tunnel in 2017.

The East Link will extend light rail 14 miles from downtown Seattle to downtown Bellevue and the Overlake area of Redmond via I-90, with 10 stations.

After it opens in 2023, the light rail project is expected to extend 3.4 miles further east to new stations in Southeast Redmond and downtown Redmond.

Sound Transit board member and King County Council Chair Claudia Balducci said: “Ten years from planning, through excavation to substantial completion, this tunnel represents Sound Transit’s commitment to a local plan that prioritized the best transit connection through downtown Bellevue.”

The company used a process known as the sequential excavation method (SEM), where the crew used conventional equipment including track mounted excavators and cutting equipment to remove soil in small section and support the excavated areas by spraying concrete.

The crew then applied waterproofing and had built the centre wall and final concrete lining.

The company also claims to have completed the tunnel’s excavation five months earlier than expected, despite the project being delayed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Stacy and Witbeck/Atkinson, the stations contractor for the segment of East Link running between downtown Bellevue and Spring District is continuing with the installation of track inside the tunnel.

Sound Transit CEO Peter Rogoff said: “East Link’s opening in 2023 will be preceded in 2021 by Northgate Link and in 2022 by the Tacoma Link Hilltop Extension. One year later, in 2024, we will extend Link to downtown Redmond, Lynnwood and Federal Way.

“These historic investments will finally give us the true mass transit network the Puget Sound region has sought for more than a half century. They will more than double our current reach and simultaneously help fuel our region’s economic recovery.”

When the rail service begins, eastbound trains will enter the tunnel north of the East Main station at 112th Avenue Southeast and Main Street and will travel for about one-third of a mile, under 110th Avenue Northeast and will turn east near Northeast Sixth Street to emerge at the future Bellevue Downtown Station.


Atkinson progressing in the tunnel construction at the beginning of this year. (Credit: ATKINSON CONSTRUCTION, LLC)

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