Sound Transit Board approves ST3 plan, lays tracks to November election

The Sound Transit board voted unanimously June 23 to pass the final ST3 public transportation package and place it on the ballot in November, eliciting cheers from audience members who supported the plan -- as well as groans from red-shirted critics.

The final $53.8 billion package included light rail, bus rapid transit and station projects that would serve 37 more areas in the greater Puget Sound region. In addition to building more light rail lines in Seattle, the package would extend the light rail system as far east as Issaquah and Redmond, north to Everett and south to Tacoma.

King County Executive and board chair Dow Constantine noted that 35,000 people had submitted online input to the plan while it was crafted, and that more than 1,200 people had attended open house meetings.

“It is a bold plan,” Constantine said. “It is a plan that completes the regional spine through Seattle, Tacoma and Everett.”

The package also passed with an amendment requiring that four-fifths of the surplus land bought around future light rail stations be offered first for the development of workforce housing serving people making less than 80 percent of the average median income.

“It is a comprehensive, exclusive and forward-thinking package. …” said Ellicott Dandy, economic and environmental justice advocacy manager for OneAmerica. “... It will increase our region’s affordable housing supply.”

The plan, if passed by voters, will be funded by a 0.5 percent increase to sales tax, a 0.8 percent increase to motor vehicle excise taxes, a 25-cent per $1,000 property tax and a combination of federal grants, bond sales, ride fares and existing financing.

Kirkland city councilmember Jay Jacobs and Issaquah councilmember Paul Winterstein said they believed the light rail line between their cities, scheduled for completion in 2041, would alter and improve the quality of life of residents.

Charles Cooper of Seattle Subway, a pro-transit group, praised the plan’s potential to drastically shift commuters’ transportation mode of choice, taking “tens of thousands of people off the road.”

Not everybody was pleased with the final package.

Sammamish city councilmember Ramiro Valderrama-Aramayo said owners of upscale homes in his city would be forced to pay larger contributions to the plan from their property taxes, without receiving increased transit access.

“The federal government is not our sugar daddy,” said co-founder David Hablewitz of the plan’s federal funding. He noted that federal funds still came from taxpayers. “Don’t think you’re saving us money by getting it from the federal government.”

Des Moines resident Jeannie White likewise expressed concern over paying for the package, but said she also found light rail to be a good service.

“I have ridden light rail and I do enjoy the light rail, so I’m kind of mixed,” she said.

Transit supporter Mark Ebersole said he thought of the plan as an investment in the future, which he expressed with a Greek proverb.

“A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in,” he said.

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