Faced with $ 7.9 billion affordability gap, Sound Transit examines options

SEATTLE, Washington, June 6, 2021 – Following an unprecedented event affordability gap of $ 7.9 billion, up from $ 11.5 billion, Sound Transit is considering realignment strategies to ensure that projects approved by voters – ST-2 and ST-3 – stay on schedule due to the combined effects of the pandemic and increased cost estimates.

Despite these major setbacks, Sound Transit assures the Lynnwood Times that the extension to Northgate and Lynnwood will not be affected.

“Construction of our tram extension to Lynnwood is on track and is scheduled to open in 2024. This project and all other projects already under construction are moving forward without going through the realignment process. By 2024, we are on track to nearly triple the length of the region’s light rail system from 22 to 62 miles, ”said Geoff Patrick, deputy executive director of communications for Sound Transit.

However, in a Special board meeting Held on June 3, all proposed realignment strategies have the Lynnwood-Mariner extension to complete 2038 delayed by 2 years from its original 2036 date, and the Mariner-Everett link delayed by five years to 2041. Still, this parking lot for the Everett link is delayed by 10 years and should be completed in 2046.

In addition, $ 40 million to improve access to Edmonds and Mukilteo stations for runners are also proposed to be delayed by 10 years and are expected to be completed in 2034.

To view the realignment strategies proposed at the June 2 meeting, click on here.

Two major simultaneous factors – the recession triggered by the pandemic and increased pressure on the real estate and construction sectors of the economy – have pushed Sound Transit projects back by $ 1.5 billion in expected tax revenue. while battling a 40% increase in labor and materials, according to Sound Transit’s Financial Plan Update.

The pandemic drastically reduced the revenues that Sound Transit relied on to expand the regional transit system when businesses were closed and potential riders stayed at home, dropping revenues essential to fund transportation construction. common. At a meeting of the Sound Transit Board held in April, the readjusted forecasts indicated that the programs remained unaffordable without realignment.

Along with the declines in income from the pandemic, the recession has not slowed the growth of building materials and labor. In a letter sent Jan. 5 to Sound Transit CEO Peter Rogoff, Deputy CEO Kimberly Farley, cost estimates for projects that weren’t planned would drop from $ 4.84 billion to $ 6.17 billion. dollars from 2019 to 2020.

Sound transit realignment process

According to Patrick, the first priorities of the realignment process are to work in the months and years to come to control costs and obtain increased funding. So far a total of $ 342,943,098 (which includes approved CARES funding and CRRSAA funding) of relief funds have been received and significant efforts are underway to secure the additional funding needed, including $ 527,890,035. in financing of the American rescue plan.

The realignment process began in January and continues according to the following schedule:

  • January: Review Project evaluation
  • February: Discuss the approximate realignment
  • March: Define realignment approaches for public comment
  • April: Collaborate with the public and key stakeholders
  • May: Discuss realignment options
  • June: Develop a draft realignment plan
  • July: Take realignment measures

Sound transit realignment survey

The Sound Transit Board is reviewing 9,730 survey responses audience as various realignment strategies are discussed. From April 12 to 30, 2021, South Transit staff provided an online survey that allowed Puget Sound residents to rank their priorities among voter-approved projects that were not yet under construction and that could make it happen. subject to realignment decisions.

More than 30,000 residents participated in an online open house that shared Sound Transit’s revenue and cost estimation issues related to the goal of the realignment strategy.

According to survey respondents:

  • 86% of them currently use or plan to use public transport in the future.
  • 49% live in the Seattle area, while; only 10% lived in Snohomish County.
  • 63% reported household income of $ 100,000 or more.

The broad regional themes – the districts included in Sound Transit’s tax base – expressed by survey respondents were as follows:

  • Extension of the Link light rail as it is a catalyst for multi-family dwellings
  • Parking – Residents of Snohomish, South King and Pierce would like more parking
  • Perception that cost increases should have been planned more effectively.
  • The fear that costs, especially real estate costs, will increase the longer we wait.

Snohomish County Inquiry Results

Respondents from Snohomish County – 907 in total – were asked to rank their top five projects in the North Corridor. Orange reflects first priority rankings, followed by green for second priority, blue for third, pink for fourth, and aqua for fifth. According to the survey, the completion of the Everett Link Extension was their highest priority.

According to the study, “Many residents of Snohomish County think they pay a lot in taxes to help fund Sound Transit, but they haven’t seen much in terms of the service they promised and feel left behind. in the expansion of public transit. “

Key dates of the original sound transit

Source: 2021 financial plan and adopted budget, December 2020

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