Photo depicting the upper level of the Northgate Station. A female-presenting individual takes a photo with their cell phone as the train pulls in.

Connecting the South End and North End and the John Lewis Memorial Bridge

by Lizz Giordano

South King County residents now have a new travel option to the University of Washington’s campus and Northgate, one that will offer a reliable travel time through one of the region’s most congested areas — downtown Seattle. 

On Saturday, Oct. 2, Sound Transit launched three more light rail stations, stretching the line to roughly 25 miles from Angle Lake to Northgate Mall. 

Thousands of people streamed through the new extension over the weekend, clapping and cheering as trains pulled into Northgate Station. For now, Northgate marks the northern terminus point until Lynnwood Link opens and trains begin running into Snohomish County — sometime in 2024, according to current projections. 

Photo depicting the interior of a train about to arrive at the Northgate Station.
After the train emerges from the Maple Leaf Portal, it rises above Interstate 5, approaching the Northgate Station. (Photo: Lizz Giordano)

A Saturday afternoon train cruised from Columbia City to Northgate in just over 30 minutes. The train car grew more and more crowded as it approached Northgate, where a crowd of people waited on the platform. 

“These three new light rail stations,” said South End King County Councilmember Girmay Zahilay, “will mean South Enders who either don’t have a car or choose not to drive can more easily get to the U District for school, and can get up to Northgate for retail or recreation.”

Girmay remembered making the trek to Northgate from his home in South Seattle as a kid. Today, the light rail trip will now be a predictable 30 to 40 minutes from the Rainier Valley. From end to end, Angle Lake to Northgate, the trip takes about 53 minutes, according to Sound Transit’s schedule

Photo depicting the above-ground Northgate Station with a light rail car pulling into it.
The Northgate Station will be the northern terminus station until Lynnwood Link opens and trains begin running into Snohomish County, currently set to happen in 2024. (Photo: Lizz Giordano)

In recent years, Northgate has undergone major changes, adding thousands of apartments and now hosting the new Seattle Kraken NHL practice facility at the Kraken Community Iceplex. 

At Northgate, a bright new white bridge sweeps over Interstate 5, connecting the station with North Seattle College and neighborhoods on the west side of the highway. The John Lewis Memorial Bridge, named for the civil rights giant who served in Congress until his death last year, spans a little more than a third of a mile, crossing over 10 lanes of highway traffic. 

The new extension also includes stops in the University District near Northeast 45th Street and Brooklyn Avenue Northeast and in the Roosevelt neighborhood just south of Roosevelt High School. These areas underwent dramatic change as developers built new apartments and retail space in anticipation of light rail’s arrival. 

  • Photo depicting the exterior of the new U District light rail station at Northeast 45th Street and Brooklyn Avenue Northeast. The UW Tower can be seen in the background.
  • Photo depicting the interior of the new U District Station platform with the artwork "Fragment Brooklyn" hanging on a wall opposite the platform.
  • Photo depicting the exterior of the Roosevelt Station, a newer apartment complex stands in the background.
  • Photo depicting the interior of the Roosevelt light rail station escalators going up from the platform.
  • Photo depicting the northbound I-5 highway running alongside the Northgate light rail station.
  • Photo depicting light-rail riders taking an escalator down into the ground-floor level of Northgate Station.

Stations at Graham Street and Boeing Access Roads in the Rainier Valley avoided the chopping block this spring as Sound Transit grappled with a $6.5 billion funding gap for the next set of projects. If the long-promised stations remain on schedule, they will open in 2031. 

Ridership grew at all stations in the Rainier Valley over the last several years before COVID-19 crushed public transportation usage, which is slowly rebounding. 

Boardings at the Beacon Hill and Othello stations rose 30%, to just over 3,100 and 2,900 a week respectively, between the second quarter of 2016 and 2019, according to Sound Transit reports. The reports also show that ridership grew between 22% and 26% at the other Rainier Valley stations over that same time period. During that time, overall ridership along the central Link line grew about 27%.

Lizz Giordano is a freelance multimedia journalist based in Seattle’s Rainier Valley focusing on transit and housing. She can be reached on Twitter @lizzgior, and more of her work can be found on her website.

📸 Featured Image: Thousands of people streamed through the new stations along the Northgate extension over the weekend. (Photo: Lizz Giordano)

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