SEATTLE -- Lawmakers and hundreds of special guests were the first to ride the new light rail cars from the University of Washington to Capitol Hill ahead of the grand opening on Saturday.
The new 3-mile segment of Link light rail begins carrying members of the public at 10 a.m.
The stations connect to existing rail service, which currently runs between the Westlake station in downtown Seattle and Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.
The agency says the university extension will add 71,000 riders to the system by 2030.
Organizers expect the new stations to bring thousands of new riders to the system over the coming years.
Gov. Jay Inslee said, "Let’s look at this as not celebrating just one station. Let's look at this as celebrating a station on the light rail to progress."
A trip from one of the new light rail stations to the other will only take 4 minutes moving at a speed of 50 mph. That same trip would take a driver 15 minutes on surface streets.
Mayor Ed Murray said, "This is a day for the region and, as the governor pointed out, it is a day for the state but it is a special day for the city of Seattle. This is going to change this city."
Murray said he wants to see stations in Ballard and West Seattle as this region continues to grow. King Cuunty Executive Dow Constantine wants to see light rail expanded to other corners of the region, such as Everett, Tacoma and Redmond.
"Traffic is bad and it's going to get worse," Constantine said. "We cannot build enough freeway lanes, arterial,and side streets to be able to handle this the way we have in the past."