Sound Transit Board chair, vice chairs endorse 2008 mass transit measure

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The top three governing officials of the Sound Transit board today announced their support for putting a mass transit ballot measure on the November ballot. The full Sound Transit board may vote July 24 on the 15-year proposal, which will offer expanded bus, commuter and light rail in Snohomish, King and Pierce counties.

“This plan provides a mass transit package that is faster, better and cheaper than last year’s Proposition 1,” said Sound Transit Board Chair and Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels. “We can’t afford to wait when we have the solutions to our transportation crisis right now. For the price of one tank of gas per year, we move forward with a regional mass transit network in three counties that gives people what they need most: an alternative to paying high gas prices. The best way to avoid the high cost of gas is not to buy it in the first place.”

“The new plan before the Board gets light rail to Snohomish County while increasing and speeding up ST Express regional bus service expansions,” said Sound Transit Board Vice Chair and Snohomish County Executive Aaron Reardon. “It responds to Snohomish County commuters’ immediate needs, and at the same time, it delivers a light rail connection to Lynnwood while positioning us for a future extension to Everett.”

“This 15-year plan turns the nearly $1 billion we would lose to inflation over the next two years into rapid progress toward better transit connections for people in Pierce County and around the region,” said Sound Transit Board Vice Chair and Lakewood City Council Member Claudia Thomas. “It delivers significant Sounder commuter rail and ST Express expansions while moving forward now with planning and property purchases to set the stage for getting light rail to Tacoma in the future.”

Nickels, Reardon, Thomas and other Sound Transit Board leaders will discuss the merits of the plan on July 24, when the Board plans to decide whether to move forward with a package this year. The package’s capital projects would cost $13.3 billion in year-of-expenditure dollars that include inflation estimates, or $9.1 billion in 2007 dollars. Funding would come from a 0.5 percent increase of the local sales tax, or 5 cents on a $10 purchase. The approximately $69 annual cost of the increase for each adult is around the cost of a single tank of gas.

The transit-only package would deliver projects significantly faster than last year’s Proposition 1 measure. The construction costs are 50 percent lower than Proposition 1, which included both roads and transit projects, and 23 percent lower than the 20-year transit package that was part of Proposition 1.

The new plan responds to public input received in May and June, which showed strong desire to see light rail extended further north and south than was proposed in 12-year options identified in April. Details of the 15-year plan include:

  • Northward expansion of light rail from the University of Washington to Northgate by 2020, with a further extension to Lynnwood by 2023, five years earlier than last year’s Proposition 1 measure.
  • Eastward expansion of light rail to Bellevue and onward to Overlake Transit Center in Redmond by 2021, seven years earlier than Proposition 1.
  • Southward expansion of light rail to Highline Community College by 2020 and Federal Way’s South 272nd Street area by 2023, five years earlier than Proposition 1.
  • Major ST Express bus service improvements, including a first phase delivered prior to completion of a new maintenance base and a second phase afterward. The plan provides service increases of 10 to 30 percent in key corridors and bus rapid transit service on State Route 520.
  • Sounder Commuter Rail service expansions remain unchanged from the 12-year options, including longer trains and more trips on the line between Lakewood and Seattle.

Improved station access: Funding to increase access to transit facilities in Auburn, Edmonds, Kent, Lakewood, Mukilteo, Puyallup, South Tacoma, Sumner, Tacoma and Tukwila. Projects will be tailored to the needs of each location and may include expanded parking; pedestrian improvements at or near stations; additional bus/transfer facilities for improved feeder service to stations; bicycle access and storage; and new and expanded drop-off areas to encourage ride-sharing.
Partnerships for expanded transit: Partnership funding for Eastside passenger rail on existing freight tracks; as well as for potential extensions of Tacoma Link light rail and projects in Bothell and Burien.

More information on the 15-year plan and other options is available at www.future.soundtransit.org.
Sound Transit’s system of regional express buses, commuter rail and light rail currently carries about 55,000 riders each day, a number that will more than double following the 2009 opening of light rail service between downtown Seattle and Sea-Tac International Airport. Construction of that light rail line is moving forward on schedule and is more than 90 percent complete.

Expansion of Link light rail between downtown and the University of Washington is slated to begin this year and be completed in 2016. University Link is projected to increase the regional light rail system’s ridership to more than 114,000 a day by 2030.