Sound Transit Board votes to move ahead with central Link light rail

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The Sound Transit Board voted today to continue moving forward with its light rail project, adopting a revised budget and schedule, and agreeing to enter into a pending $500 million federal grant agreement. The vote was 14 to one, with three boardmembers absent.

The board also directed the staff to proceed with a six-month work plan to complete the contracting process for the tunnel portions of the project and to continue investigating methods to reduce the costs and risks associated with the tunnel. The analysis will look at alternatives to crossing beneath Portage Bay and deep tunnel stations in the University District.

"This is a day of beginnings," said Sound Transit Board chair Dave Earling, an Edmond City Councilmember. "We have a lot of work to do now. It's my hope that everyone in the community, including those who have been skeptical about light rail, will come together and help us make this project successful."

"Light rail is the most cost-effective solution to expanding the people-moving capacity along Interstate 5 in the central Puget Sound region. We can't expand the freeway and this project does the next best thing- it creates new right-of-way. It's a new road that will serve this region for the next 100 years and longer."
Earling said he was pleased with the board's solid support of today's actions and expressed appreciation to members of the state congressional delegation for their efforts in securing the federal funding agreement.The revised budget sets the cost for building the central Link light rail system at $3.6 billion (YOE$), and extends the completion date to November 2009. The first segment to be built will be the 7-mile line between N.E. 45th St. in the University District and Lander St. in the Duwamish industrial area. Construction is anticipated to begin in June 2002. The budget for the first segment, which includes the planned 4.5¬mile tunnel between downtown Seattle and the University District, is set at $2.6 billion. Construction on the segment south of Lander St. is planned for 2004.


"Today's decision sends a strong message to our partners at the Federal Transit Administration that we have a ready-to-go plan and that we are fully committed to building the light rail system promised to voters in 1996," Earling said. "We also know that we have some work to do to restore the confidence of the public in this agency, and we intend to just that."

 


The board is also directing an agency reorganization to improve accountability, project management and communication with both the public and the board. The agency has already created and filled the new position of chief operating officer, and has made changes in the management of the Link light rail department. A major component will be a strengthening of the agencies project management oversight and financial management oversight.


Efforts are already underway to create a technical advisory committee to work closely with the board and staff, with specialized expertise in construction, finance, and project management. The committee will be asked meet and report regularly to the board on issues and obstacles they foresee for the project.
The central Link light rail line is part of a package of regional transit services and facilities approved by the region's voters in 1996. Sound Transit is operating Sounder commuter rail service between Tacoma and Seattle, with plans to expand service north to Everett and south to Lakewood. The agency also has implemented 13 limited-stop regional express bus routes in the three-county region, with five additional routes going into service over the next two years.

 


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


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