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Light rail tunneling to begin at University of Washington

Elaine Thompson
Sen. Patty Murray drops a ceremonial bottle of "champagne" from a zip line to be smashed against a tunnel boring machine several stories below at the University of Washington in Seattle.

Senator Patty Murray broke a bottle of champagne on a tunnel-boring machine near Husky Stadium to kick off work Monday on another link in the Sound Transit light-rail system.

The $2 billion, three-mile tunnel will connect the university with Seattle's Capitol Hill neighborhood and the downtown Westlake Center.Boring machines will tunnel at two other locations, and officials expect the light-rail expansion to open by September 2016.

The Seattle Times' Mike Lindblom reports the long-awaited route is estimated to attract 70,000 daily passengers by 2030 — even more if the agency completes three suburban lines to Lynnwood, Overlake and Highline Community College.

"As the system is completed, this is going to be a big deal," said Josh Kavanagh, UW transportation director.

Ridership estimates can go awry: the existing downtown-to-airport line, currently draws 21,000 boardings a day instead of the targeted 26,000.

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