State support critical for keeping Sound Transit expansions moving
As the Washington State Legislature considers transportation options, the Sound Transit Board of Directors urgently calls on legislators to include funding to protect rail and bus rapid transit projects that are critical for moving people, creating jobs and protecting our environment.
A letter from members of the Board to the House and Senate transportation committees outlines the funding shortfall Sound Transit faces due to the impacts of the COVID-19 recession and increases in real estate prices and construction costs. State support is critical for helping to resolve a $11.5 billion affordability gap for finishing voter-approved projects on time.
While current construction projects remain funded and will be delivered on time, the shortfall threatens projects in earlier phases of development to expand light rail to Tacoma, Everett, West Seattle, Ballard, South Kirkland, Issaquah and Tacoma Community College; expand Sounder commuter rail service and access; and launch Stride bus rapid transit service on I-405.
"Sound Transit is committed to delivering as much of the ST3 plan as quickly as revenues will allow to keep our people and economy moving, including creating thousands of jobs that fuel or economic recovery," said Sound Transit Board Chair and University Place City Councilmember Kent Keel.
"The voters of the Puget Sound region passed ST 3 because they knew that it was critical to the economic future of our region and to address climate change. Those needs have only deepened since then, and it is incumbent on leaders to find ways to help deliver on the promised benefits of building the system as soon as we can," said Sound Transit Board Vice Chair and King County Executive Dow Constantine.
"We must maintain momentum remedying years of underinvestment in mass transit infrastructure that is needed to make the Puget Sound region’s transportation system work. Finally getting this job done is critical to our entire state’s future — our economy and our environment — and we can’t do it without the Legislature’s support," said Sound Transit Board Vice Chair and Everett City Councilmember Paul Roberts.
Through a realignment process that is now underway, the Sound Transit Board of Directors is responding to the $11.5 billion affordability gap by working to determine the agency’s course of action for projects not yet in construction, as required by state law. The first emphasis is pursuing expanded financial capacity, including urgently seeking federal and state funding. To the extent that sufficient resources are not secured, the only tools available include delaying projects or, in some cases, potentially eliminating them.
The transportation sector represents the largest source of Washington’s carbon emissions. Yet, the burden of paying for critical public transit projects and services falls almost entirely on local taxpayers. No state funding is currently in place to support Sound Transit’s infrastructure expansions. The failure to adequately fund public transportation should be remedied in any transportation revenue proposal that moves forward.
"Slowing Sound Transit’s progress in expanding our rail and bus rapid transit network means slowing our progress in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and connecting workers to housing that is affordable," said Sound Transit CEO Peter Rogoff. "The Legislature’s support for keeping voter-approved projects on track is critical to realizing the interests and values of regional and state residents."