The University of Washington and Sound Transit announced today they've reached a tentative agreement that clears the way for a light-rail...

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The University of Washington and Sound Transit announced today they’ve reached a tentative agreement that clears the way for a light-rail tunnel to reach the Seattle campus.

Sound Transit needs the deal in order to secure a proposed federal grant of $750 million to help fund its planned $1.6 billion, three-mile tunnel from Westlake Center to Husky Stadium.

Construction could begin next year.

The deal limits construction at UW to 5 ½ years, and pays the university $35 million to compensate for property takings, loss of parking spaces, and design work.

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The university has taken years to endorse the project, in part because UW does not want a line to permanently end at Husky Stadium.

But Sound Transit currently can’t afford to continue to Northeast 45th Street, near the north side of campus, as originally promised in 1996.

To reach that site, and build onward to Northgate and Snohomish County, the agency needs voter approval of a multibillion-dollar regional ballot measure this fall.

In the proposed deal, UW says it will support Sound Transit’s efforts to build beyond the stadium.

The agreement will go to the University of Washington Board of Regents and the Sound Transit Finance Committee on Thursday, and the full Sound Transit Board will consider it June 14.

Negotiations began in 1998, and there have been two route changes. Sound Transit moved its tunnel east from Portage Bay to the Montlake Cut, where the soil is more stable; and it agreed to a winding tunnel around the east edge of campus in a future phase, instead of a direct line that could pose vibration risks to UW science labs.

Sound Transit predicts that a Husky Stadium station, and one at Capitol Hill, would add 70,000 daily riders to the line that’s already under construction from downtown to Sea-Tac Airport.

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