Sound Transit winds down: What’s next?
By BENJAMIN MINNICK
Journal Construction Editor
Sound Transit is at it again — topping the DJC’s list of public construction projects. For 2005, the agency is No. 1 with the $231 million Central Link light rail Tukwila segment; in 2004, it took three out of the top five spots, including first.
Photo courtesy Sound TransitTransit
Workers prepare support columns for Sound Transit’s light rail Tukwila segment, which includes an elevated guideway. It was the top public construction project of 2005.
Sound Move — the ballot measure approved by voters in 1996 that called for a mass transit system connecting the urban areas of King, Pierce and Snohomish counties — has brought nearly $5 billion worth of projects to the local construction community. In addition to the big Central Link light-rail projects, the program has included transit centers, park-and-ride lots, direct-access ramps and Sounder commuter rail.
Sound Transit spokesman Geoff Patrick said the projects have created more than 10,000 new parking stalls for commuters, with a vast majority of them occupied during the day. “A lot of our facilities fill up early in the commute and there’s definitely demand for more,” he said.
Sound Move is beginning to wind down, with most of the projects finished or under construction. Central Link light rail is expected to open in mid-2009. The finale will be a 1.7-mile light-rail segment from Tukwila to Sea-Tac Airport that should be operational by the end of 2009.
Patrick said the Sound Transit board has been working on the next phase, called Sound Transit 2. He said the board is putting together a draft package of projects to put before voters, possibly as early as next November. The board started with a list of 500 projects and has whittled that down to 63 after asking communities how the transit system should expand. More whittling is expected.
Patrick said there is a greater need for transit than funding available.
Sound Move is funded by bonds that will be paid off in 2028 from a .4 percent sales tax and a .3 percent motor vehicle excise tax. Patrick said the sales tax makes up about 80 percent of the revenues.
Patrick said the MVET can’t go up to fund Sound Transit 2 because of Initiative 776, but the board could ask voters to approve up to another .5 percent increase in the sales tax.
So, what’s the cost of ST2? “That’s the big question,” Patrick said. “They (the board) could submit a small package or a big one.” The board has asked Sound Transit staff to prepare options for low, medium and high tax scenarios, according to Patrick.
As soon as next month, the board will put together a draft package for the public’s input. In the meantime, Patrick said congestion will continue to get worse as an estimated 1.2 million more people move into the region by 2030.
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Washington State 2005 team
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