Friday, December 16, 2011

Sound Transit adopts 2012 budget, elects board chair and narrows focus on expansion

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The Seattle-area Sound Transit Board of Directors adopted a 2012 budget that includes more than $700 million for new construction, as Sound Transit continues building the mass transit expansions voters approved in 2008.

The 2012 budget is more than $1 billion and includes $733 million for capital projects and $199 million for delivering train and bus services.

Priorities for 2012 include continuing to respond to the national recession's significant impacts on funding for completing the Sound Transit 2 ballot measure that voters adopted in 2008. Current forecasts predict a 25 percent reduction in available revenues through 2023. The challenges are particularly great in Sound Transit's South King County subarea, where revenues are currently projected to be 32 percent lower. The Sound Transit Board has directed the launch of a major effort in 2012 to analyze alternatives for expanding services in South King County, including alternatives for extending light rail southward toward Federal Way.

Major milestones for 2012 include:
• Completing major tunneling operations on the 3.1-mile University Link light-rail expansion between downtown Seattle and University of Washington

• Beginning early construction work on the North Link light-rail expansion from UW to Northgate

• Selecting a design/build contractor for the South Link extension from Sea-Tac Airport to South 200th Street

• Beginning final design on East Link light rail

• Opening the Sounder commuter rail extension between Tacoma and Lakewood

• Building Mukilteo Sounder station's south platform and the permanent Tukwila Sounder Station

• Maintaining existing services and assets

• Continuing environmental studies to expand light rail from Northgate to Lynnwood

With systemwide ridership up almost 10 percent and Link light-rail ridership up 12 percent in 2011, over 2010 (through October), the agency will continue its focus on maintaining and growing existing ridership through improved customer service, communications and proactive maintenance programs.

2012 capital spending includes:

• $461.1 million for Link light rail
• $176.5 million for Sounder commuter rail

In other news, the Sound Transit Board of Directors took a major step toward expanding mass transit to Snohomish County, unanimously directing staff to move ahead with environmental studies to identify a light-rail route along the Interstate 5 corridor. Sound Transit will now examine routing and station details between Northgate and Lynnwood as it prepares a Draft Environmental Impact Statement.

"This is a big step for thousands of commuters who travel between Snohomish and King counties every day," said Sound Transit Board Chair and Snohomish County Executive Aaron Reardon. "After extensive study of alternatives, it is clear that light rail is the right technology and that I-5 is the right corridor."

It is estimated the line will carry 52,000 riders a day by 2030 and take about 14 minutes to travel between Lynnwood and Northgate, with four stations and trains running every four minutes during rush hours.

Additionally, the board of directors unanimously elected Pierce County Executive Pat McCarthy to serve as its chair for the next two years, effective January 1, 2012.

"I look forward to working with leaders across the region to continue Sound Transit's track record of delivering major projects and serving thousands of riders each day," McCarthy said. "Expanding public transit services is critical to ensuring the Puget Sound region has the infrastructure it needs to move people and goods as we attract new investments, jobs and residents in the years ahead. The opportunities ahead of us are great as we work together to navigate the challenges created by the recession."

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