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Originally published Saturday, December 19, 2009 at 1:19 PM

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Sound Transit opens new light-rail link with Sea-Tac Airport

Sound Transit opened its latest light-rail segment today, bringing riders to its new Airport Station at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.

Seattle Times transportation reporter

Sound Transit opened its latest light-rail segment today, bringing riders to its new SeaTac/Airport Station.

Late-morning trains brought about 75 holiday travelers the 1.7 miles from the Tukwila station to the towering airport train stop with its spine-like truss roof, located between airport's parking garage and Highway 99, a quarter-mile walk from the terminal.

Elizabeth Kao, 72, and younger sister Losa Kuo rode from the Chinatown International District to scout out the new station for their upcoming trip to Taiwan for the Chinese New Year.

"It will be more convenient than a bus," Kao said.

There's scant room for luggage on a bus, but trains are fairly roomy, she said. They weren't concerned about the walk.

Anthony and Becca Aue and daughters Audrey, 6 and Leila, 5, rolled bags through the skybridge and passageway from the station to the terminal. The girls complained of the cold, but their mother said "that was not that bad of a walk." Her only gripe was with the escalator, so close to the train that a bottleneck happened as people brought luggage onto the escalator.

Timing the trip, Becca Aue found the train took 18 minutes, compared to 20 minutes in ideal driving. "You factor in a few more minutes waiting for the train, it's about the same." Then they saw the line of cars slowly arriving at the terminal curbside, and felt even better about their choice to ride rail.

About 500 people, mostly government officials, the station's contractors, workers, transit fans and their families, filled the station for opening ceremonies that included music from the Highline High School band. U.S. Rep. Jim McDermott, D-Seattle, compared the difficulty of establishing Seattle light rail to the challenge of fixing health care.

"Getting something started is the hard part," he said. "My intention is to live long enough to ride this to Tacoma."

Fares are $2.50 for an adult to go from downtown to the airport, a 16-mile distance. There are no free rides today, and fare inspectors are actively working the trains.

Mike Lindblom: 206-515-5631 or mlindblom@seattletimes.com

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