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Opening Day: John Lewis Memorial Bridge, new light rail stations celebrated by thousands

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Photo by Tim Durkan
Photo by Tim Durkan

Saturday, October 2, marked a momentous day for Seattle transit. Three new light rail stations were officially opened in the northern reaches of the city, and they were welcomed by thousands throughout the day. This long-anticipated extension comes 13 years after voters approved the initiative.

The finalization of the $1.9 billion, 4.3-mile project will mean an additional 42,000 to 49,000 people served, and it may eventually decrease the number of car commuters on I-5 by five percent, according to Sound Transit.

Photo by Tim Durkan  

Northgate Station saw the first festive crowds of the day with its inaugural train at 4:51 a.m. About 150 people gathered at the southbound platform to experience the train's first departure.

In addition to the new station, the John Lewis Memorial Bridge was officially opened Oct. 2, an event preceded by a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Oct. 1. Stretching across I-5, the 1,900-foot pedestrian and bike bridge was erected with the aim of connecting people divided by the interstate, and it provides a direct route from North Seattle College to the light rail station.?
"The John Lewis Memorial Bridge improves access to communities, services, and opportunities on the east and west sides of I-5 in Northgate and Licton Springs, helping knit together a historically divided area," reads the project website.

Community priorities that guided construction of the bridge emphasized accessibility for all and preservation of the local environment. All entrances to the bridge adhere to ADA standards, and for the 93 trees that had to be removed for the project, 464 were planted in the affected wetlands habitat nearby.

Photo by Tim Durkan  

Representatives of SDOT and Sound Transit, Mayor Jenny Durkan, and several other area decision-makers attended the opening ceremony in a show of support for the bridge, which honors the late statesman and civil rights icon John Lewis. Though he was a representative for the state of Georgia, Lewis's mark on civil rights progress spans the nation.

Councilmember Debora Juarez proposed the name, calling Lewis "a true bridge-builder who could work across the aisle to achieve progress." With a dearth of public facilities in Seattle that recognize Black, Indigenous, and POC heroes — especially in the city's north end — the bridge's name serves the city in its wish to acknowledge the BIPOC people of the US and the region.

Throughout the day, more festivities followed at the new Roosevelt and University District Stations.

Roosevelt & U District
"After a dozen or so years of organizing, planning, liaising and looking down a big hole, it's time to celebrate," wrote the Roosevelt Neighborhood Association in their announcement.

Live music, food trucks, and dancing took place until 4:00 pm outside of the station, which lies along 12th Ave NE between NE 65th & 67th. Seated firmly between Green Lake and Roosevelt High, this station brings passengers easy access to the heart of several northern Seattle communities, renowned outdoor scenery, and recreational opportunities.

In the University District, the day brimmed with activity. From 10 am to 8 pm, the University District Partnership hosted the U District Station Opening Festival and $3 Food Walk, seeing hundreds of visitors by midday. The Food Walk featured over forty restaurants surrounding the new station, each one offering signature bites for $3.

Food Walk guests were encouraged by organizers to make 5 purchases at participating eateries for a chance to win roundtrip airfare and a stay at a Graduate Hotel.

Performances by local musicians and cultural groups took place throughout the day on the Xfinity Main Stage, set up right on The Ave between NE 42nd and 43rd.

A long time coming
While Sound Transit needed 25 years of campaigns, taxes and labor to achieve this extensions, Seattleites have been especially ready for accessible transit connections in the wake of 2020's city-wide closures and uncertainty. For the communities of north Seattle newly served, this access will provide an essential opportunity to commute to and from the city center and beyond.?
By the end of the day Saturday, thousands of passengers had explored the finished route, and there were certainly celebrations for all who turned out.

Councilmember Juarez sees the light rail as a beacon of community. "When you look at a building, when you look at a bridge, when you look at a station, what do those three things have in common? They say, 'Come here, this is where all the good stuff is.' It brings people together," she said.

With these new stops, a trip from the T-Mobile Park (Stadium Station) to the Kraken HQ (Northgate Station) could take just 20 minutes. Depending on the destination distance, the light rail costs between $2.25 and $3.50 per trip, with options for day-long tickets or ORCA Card monthly rates. Low-income individuals can apply for savings through ORCA Lift.