Sound Transit updates long-term revenue forecasts

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Latest forecasts show ST2 funding down by up to 25 percent

Sound Transit yesterday released updated long-term revenue forecasts to the agency's Executive Committee which shows ST2 funding levels down by about 25 percent, or $3.9 billion.

Last fall Sound Transit estimated long-term revenue levels to be down by about 20 percent, or $3.1 billion through 2023. The latest estimates come from updated forecasts the agency received showing an additional $767 million shortfall.

Sound Transit receives the bulk of its funding through sales tax revenues and a smaller percentage from the Motor Vehicle Excise Tax (MVET) within the Sound Transit district that covers the urban areas of King, Pierce and Snohomish Counties.

"We are in the same boat as other public agencies that rely on sales tax revenues," said Sound Transit CEO Joni Earl. "We will work with the Board to address these shortfalls through the upcoming budget process to prioritize our spending and identify opportunities to save money."

Recovery from the recession that began in late 2008 has been slower than expected and Sound Transit has been impacted by the downturn and slow recovery. Voters approved the $18 billion Sound Transit 2 plan in late 2008 to expand the regional mass transit system with light rail extensions north, east and south along with commuter rail and regional express bus service expansions.

The shortfall projected last fall forced the agency to eliminate much of the financial reserves built into the ST 2 capital construction plans. The latest news emphasizes the need to maintain project scopes and examine all agency spending.

This fall the Board will develop short- and long-term spending priorities during the normal budgeting process from September - November. Options to address the revenue shortfalls may include reducing project scope, extending project timelines and reducing operating and administrative costs.

The new forecasts will not impact projects like the University Link light rail extension currently under construction and scheduled to open in late 2016.