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Sound Transit reaches proposed agreement for Metro to operate Central Link light rail

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Sound Transit today announced a proposed agreement under which King County Metro would operate and maintain Sound Transit's Central Link light rail system.

"Rather than creating a new infrastructure to operate Central Link, this agreement will use our region's tax dollars more efficiently by relying on an organization that already safely and efficiently carries millions of passengers every year," said Sound Transit Executive Director Joni Earl. "Metro has earned a national reputation for outstanding transit service. It is a well-run organization that is the region's best choice as the contractor for operating Central Link."

The agreement will be considered by the Sound Transit Board and the King County Council. Under its provisions, Sound Transit would pay Metro approximately $124 million for the first five years after the system opens.

"We reached this agreement through extensive negotiations and feel very comfortable the costs are reasonable and fair," Earl said. "This is an all-around smart business move for Sound Transit and the people of this region."

Safety is another key benefit of the agreement. A single agency's operation of both the trains and buses that use the tunnel will ensure the safety of riders. Metro has been safely operating buses in the tunnel for more than a decade.

The agreement includes numerous mechanisms for Sound Transit to closely monitor Metro's performance. It requires Metro to operate within a budget that cannot be exceeded without prior approval from Sound Transit and is subject to regular outside performance and financial audits. Sound Transit will approve annual staffing plans for Link - a key method of monitoring and maintaining costs. Any payment adjustments must be based on documented costs. Sound Transit can opt out of the agreement in the event of unacceptable performance

The agreement would establish operating costs for Central Link falling in the range of other light rail systems around the country. Prior to entering negotiations, Sound Transit prepared an estimate of what operating Central Link would cost based on other agencies' costs. Metro's costs came in slightly under the estimate.

Choosing Central Link's operator is a major 2003 milestone for Sound Transit, bringing the region closer to the day when light rail serves as a critical transit spine, providing a new transportation option through one of the most congested corridors in the nation.

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