Buying time is not going to impact Sound Transit’s embattled budget.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and a 40% increase in material costs, Sound Transit officials are trying to come up with a solution for a $7.9 billion affordability gap, which is down from $11.5 billion.
The agency is putting together realignment strategies for light-rail projects. In other words, it looks like most, if not all, will have their completion dates pushed back. Several scenarios were unveiled during a special board meeting late last week. All of the proposed realignment strategies show projects like the Lynnwood-Mariner extension could be delayed at least two years, while other projects like the Mariner-Everett link will have their completion dates set in Tier 2, which shows a less than six-year delay. Tier 3 comes with a less than nine-year delay, while the final tier has projects facing a 10-plus year delay.
The realignment process is supposed to allow the agency to get a handle on costs while also lining up expanded funding. Sound Transit has also reached out to the public to rank voter-approved projects that have not broken ground yet and are subject to realignment decisions. Over 30,000 residents attended an online open house where Sound Transit’s revenue and cost estimate issues were shared.
According to the survey, which had over 9,700 responses, there is a perception that cost increases should have been planned for more effectively, and there is a concern that the costs will only increase the longer the agency waits to take action.