LYNNWOOD, Wash. — The Lynnwood Link light rail extension broke ground Tuesday, reaching a major milestone in the Sound Transit 2 expansion effort.

“This region needs it,” said Snohomish County Executive Dave Somers. “People are tired of sitting in traffic without any options. It’s vitally important to our future, to our life here.”

Over a dozen local leaders attended a groundbreaking ceremony in Lynnwood on Tuesday, including Washington Governor Jay Inslee, Sens. Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray, and Reps. Rick Larsen and Suzan DelBene.

The 8.5-mile extension will bring service from Northgate to Lynnwood City Center with three stations in between at 145th and 185th Streets in Shoreline and in Mountlake Terrace.

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Groundbreaking on the Lynnwood Link extension marks the first portion of Sound Transit’s light rail service that will reach Snohomish County. Service is eventually expected to go to Everett as part of the 2016 voter-approved tax package Sound Transit 3, although that service won’t begin until 2036.

Leaders pointed to the light rail extension as a crucial economic driver amid Snohomish County’s rapid growth. The county is expected to grow from about 814,000 to more than 1 million people over 20 years, according to Somers, and leaders hope the light rail will spark other development.

“Having infrastructure to connect people or goods to transfer through our economies is critically, critically important,” said DelBene.

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The Lynnwood Link extension is expected to open in 2024.