Sound Transit board approves earlier timetables for ST3 projects

A revised plan from Sound Transit might see two downtown light rail lines, to Ballard and West Seattle, open three years earlier than originally accounted for.

Those light rail lines remain nearly two decades away, if they’re approved with an ST3 public transit package in November. 

But recently approved amendments would see the West Seattle line open in 2030, rather than 2033, and the Ballard line open in 2035, rather than 2038.

The lines were two of eight projects that had their deadlines moved up by the Sound Transit Board at a special meeting June 2.

The change came in an amendment to the ST3 draft plan for a network of light rail and bus rapid transit projects in the Puget Sound region. A final version of that plan, the one going to voters, is expected to be approved by the board June 23, ending a process that began with a list of candidate projects in August 2015.

“Getting us to this point has really been a remarkable effort by a board of truly regionally minded leaders and a great staff who have been working seven days a week as we come up with these … ideas,” Board Chair and King County Executive Dow Constantine said. “… You are setting down the template for the growth and development of this region for the next several generations.”

Other projects were moved up between two and five years earlier in ST3’s timeline. The North Link station in Everett  is now slated to open in 2036, while East Link stations in Downtown Redmond and Federal Way would open in 2024. On the South Link, the Tacoma station opening would coincide with West Seattle’s in 2030, with the Tacoma line extending to Tacoma Community College by 2039.

New stations on Graham Street in Beacon Hill and Boeing Access Road in Tukwila would open in 2031.

Stakeholders like Justin Leighton, the co-chair of the Tacoma Transportation Commission, expressed satisfaction with the projects that would serve their cities.

Others thought the plan came up short. 

In public comment, Renton City Councilmember Ruth Perez pleaded for an additional extension of the light rail line so that her city would “not be 25 years behind every other major city in King County.”

West Seattle resident and commuter Nick Woods said he hoped the board would consider provisional projects — such as a light rail connecting the University of Washington to Ballard — in case primary projects finished with a budget surplus.

“We owe it to Seattle’s future to leave behind a great mass transit system,” Woods said.

In all, the ST3 plan would build 62 miles of light rail to 37 new stations. The plan would be funded by a planned $54 billion — recently increased from $50 million to accommodate more projects — paid over 2017-2041 from grants, bonds, fares, sales taxes, motor vehicle excise taxes and property taxes.