Through April 30, regional residents are encouraged to provide input to the Sound Transit Board of Directors on priorities for managing what the agency called “an unprecedented financial environment in its work to advance voter-approved transit projects that are not already under construction.”
Sound Transit said it faces two major, simultaneous challenges. A pandemic-driven recession has severely reduced consumer spending and agency tax revenues at the same time that real estate and construction market pressures continue to drive project estimates to levels significantly beyond previous assumptions. As a result, the agency faces a currently projected $11.5 billion “affordability gap” to complete the full expansion program as originally planned through the Sound Transit 3 ballot measure approved by voters.
In Snohomish County, these projects include the Everett Link light rail extension, bus rapid transit on I-405 north and more parking options for the Edmonds and Mukilteo Sounder commuter train stations.
Projects now under construction — including light rail extensions to Northgate, Lynnwood, Bellevue, Redmond, Federal Way and Tacoma’s Hilltop neighborhood, as well as the Puyallup Sounder garage — are not subject to realignment. Sound Transit said it is poised to open all of these projects on schedule.
The Sound Transit board is using a process called realignment to determine how plans and timelines for future voter-approved projects will need to change to address these financial pressures. The approved Sound Transit 3 ballot measure requires this process when it is clear the program is not affordable.
According to a Sound Transit announcement Monday, in addition to identifying options to manage costs, the first emphasis of the realignment is pursuing federal grants and other alternative revenue sources to help close the financial gap. To the extent the agency cannot secure sufficient new resources, establishing realignment plans this summer will help ensure affordability under updated projections for current revenue sources. The board’s options include delaying the delivery of projects to provide longer periods to collect revenue; delivering projects in phases; and reducing project elements.
“The input that residents provide will help the Sound Transit Board establish a framework for managing whatever affordability gap remains after continuing our intensive work to secure additional financial capacity,” said Sound Transit Board Chair and University Place City Councilmember Kent Keel. “Our focus is on opening these projects with the least possible impact to when they will greatly expand our residents’ travel options and create thousands of jobs.”
How to provide input
Through April 30, community members can provide comments on realignment through several options:
- Visit an online open house and complete a short survey at www.soundtransit.org/realignment. Information and surveys are available in English, Korean, Russian, Spanish, Traditional Chinese, Tagalog and Vietnamese.
- Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Leave a voicemail at 206-553-3400.
The agency will compile and present input to the Sound Transit Board in May in advance of upcoming realignment discussions.