Alternative plan would bring light rail to Everett by 2033

EVERETT — Sound Transit board members from Snohomish County floated a plan Monday to get light rail to Everett by 2033 — eight years sooner than what the agency proposed last month.

The proposals are being developed for a fall ballot measure known as Sound Transit 3, or ST3 for short.

The transit agency’s original ST3 concept would have built out the Link light rail system to Everett by 2041. The 25-year timeline elicited howls of disapproval in Snohomish County, where voters since the mid-1990s expected Everett to be next in line after light rail reaches Seattle, Tacoma and the Eastside.

“I’ve certainly heard loud and clear from people here about their concerns,” said Everett City Councilman Paul Roberts, who serves on the Sound Transit Board. “Time is the main one. They also want to make sure it serves the job centers.”

Among those job centers, the area around Paine Field and Boeing’s Everett plant is the largest.

Roberts signed on to support the alternate proposal with Snohomish County Executive Dave Somers and Edmonds Mayor Dave Earling. They forwarded it Tuesday to Sound Transit’s board chairman, King County Executive Dow Constantine.

Their version would, like the earlier plan from Sound Transit staff, follow the I-5 corridor north until 128th Street in south Everett. From there, both versions would head northwest toward Paine Field.

The new plan aims to save money by following Highway 526 and I-5 to Everett Station. That differs from the earlier proposal, which would have gone up Evergreen Way to reach downtown.

The proposed line would include seven stops: Everett Station, Highway 526 at Evergreen Way, Paine Field, Highway 99 at Airport Road, 128th Street near I-5, the Ash Way Park-and-Ride and a stop near Alderwood mall.

Sound Transit expects to connect light rail to the park-and-ride lot in Lynnwood in 2023.

“The long-term issue has been to get to Everett,” Earling said. “We need to find ways that we can reduce costs and to speed up the delivery from 2041. We’ve known all along that the least-expensive option is to go from Lynnwood straight up I-5 to Everett. But we see the profound need for doing the industrial loop.”

County Public Works Director Steve Thomsen believes the changes suggested by Snohomish County leaders will shave off “several hundred million” dollars, but said it would be up to Sound Transit staff to come up with more definite numbers.

Much of the savings would come from using state right-of-way along Highway 526 and I-5, Thomsen said.

“You’re dealing with one agency, the Washington State Department of Transportation, rather than dozens and dozens of property owners,” Thomsen said. “That’s a time issue, too.”

Fewer businesses would be affected along freeways compared to city streets, he said. Also, more of the line could potentially built at-grade, rather than on more expensive elevated tracks.

Under the plan released last month, the Lynnwood-to-Everett segment would cost an estimated $4.3 billion. Going straight up I-5, without a direct link to the southwest Everett industrial area, could potentially shave off $1 billion or more in costs.

ST3 would cost $50 billion. It would be paid for through a mix of sales tax, property tax and car-tab fees. If the measure passes, the average taxpayer would have to pay an additional $200 per year.

Under Sound Transit’s plan, light rail would reach West Seattle and Tacoma in 2033. Rail would link to Ballard by 2038 and Issaquah in 2041. The plan also calls for bus-based rapid transit on I-405 among other upgrades.

The Sound Transit board hopes to finalize a ballot measure within the next couple of months.

Plans continue to evolve.

Sound Transit will be collecting feedback online through April 29 at www.soundtransit3.org.

The agency also has been hosting meetings about ST3 throughout its three-county service area. A meeting at Everett Station, 3201 Smith Ave., is set for 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Monday with a presentation at 6 p.m.

The agency also accepts feedback via email, soundtransit3@soundtransit.org, and regular mail, Sound Transit, 401 S. Jackson St., Seattle, WA 98104, or by phone, 206-903-7000.

Noah Haglund: 425-339-3465; nhaglund@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @NWhaglund.

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