Sound Transit Board authorizes light rail construction; moves to control costs

Publish Date

By a 14-2 margin, the Sound Transit Board today authorized the agency to begin construction of an initial segment of Central Link light rail "as soon as reasonably practicable in 2002." The board's action also includes strong measures to control the size and scope of the construction project.

A separate action formally directs staff to work with the Port of Seattle to ensure service to Sea-Tac Airport. This action, in conjunction with the Board's action on September 27 directing staff to develop a route, budget and schedule for reaching Northgate, identifies a path for completing the entire 21-mile Central Link light rail alignment.

The initial segment of light rail will provide service from just north of Sea-Tac Airport, through urban-residential areas of south Seattle (including the Rainier Valley and Beacon Hill) and into downtown Seattle. A shuttle service will transport passengers to the airport terminal until a plan for permanent service to the airport is adopted in conjunction with the Port of Seattle.

The Board also adopted a provision that will require a two-thirds super-majority vote to use the light rail project's reserve funds. With this provision, the Board signaled its intent to hold the line on the $2.1 billion budget for the project.

Additional amendments strengthened the accountability and cost controls by directing any cost savings toward completing the total light rail alignment (to the north and south) and calling for a plan to provide additional oversight of project development and construction.

The initial 14-mile segment of Central Link light rail is projected to carry more than 42,000 riders per day by 2020. The vote means that light rail construction, which will create more than 4,200 new direct and indirect jobs in the region, can begin as early as next summer. Central Link light rail trains could begin running in 2009.

Board members voting in favor of this segment include Dave Earling, Ron Sims, Bob Drewel, John Ladenburg, Doug MacDonald, David Enslow, Greg Nickels, Jack Crawford, Mary Gates, Richard McIver, Kevin Phelps, Cynthia Sullivan, Jim White and Ann Kirk Davis. Jane Hague and Rob McKenna voted against it. Board members Paul Schell and Ed Hansen were absent for the vote.

Sound Transit was created by voters in 1996 to provide a regional system of transit improvements, including Sounder commuter rail, ST Express regional bus service, numerous capital improvements (including park and rides, transit centers and direct access ramps) and Link light rail.

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Sound Transit plans, builds and operates regional transit systems and services to improve mobility for Central Puget Sound.