Sound Transit’s plan of delaying several projects by years is not going over well with politicians and the public.
The agency faces a $7.9 billion affordability gap, and the plan to push deadlines back has been led by board chair Kent Keel. It appears some projects, like light-rail expansion along the I-5 corridor from Everett to Tacoma, will have delays that are less severe, while other projects could have their completion dates as much as two decades later than originally planned. Keel also wants projects that have strong ridership potential to be less impacted by delays, and he wants to finish projects that had the longest tenure and prioritize equity for transit-dependent, diverse, and low-income communities.
The public wanted the board to adhere to the original project deadlines, but since funding for these projects were voter-approved there is a legal requirement that when the capital expansion plan becomes unaffordable the board needs to take action to make it affordable. The realignment plan also will keep the agency’s credit rating high, which will make projects eligible for federal funding.
However, Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan is calling the move one of the worst decisions the board could make for the region and climate. Durkan says the reason for the realignment plan is due to project cost increases, and also blames Sound Transit for not pursuing interim state or local funding options. Changes in federal funding and a recovering economy could turn things around for the agency, and a realignment plan might not be necessary.
King County Councilmember Claudia Balducci has come up with an alternative plan that is predicated on maintaining the original schedule as close as possible.
The Sound Transit board could wrap up plans to selecting a final realignment plan by July 22. An Executive Committee will most likely happen on July 1 where a resolution and amendments will be discussed. Amendments need to be handed over to the chair by July 8. A Finance Audit Committee meeting will be held a week later to discuss the financial aspects of the resolution and to review updated financial conditions.