The new Angle Lake station of Sound Transit’s Link light rail. (Ian Terry / The Herald)

The new Angle Lake station of Sound Transit’s Link light rail. (Ian Terry / The Herald)

Is Sound Transit 3 the $54B answer to our congestion?

This is part of a Sound Publishing special report on the Sound Transit 3 expansion proposal, which is on the ballot on Nov. 8. More

We dare you: Read this introduction.

And read it again. And again. And again and again.

Time-consuming, isn’t it? Not to mention tedious.

The 15 or 16 minutes it would take to read this article five times is about what commuters spend creeping from the King-Snohomish county line to Lynnwood’s off-ramps. And that’s just a few interstate exits. If drivers are heading to Everett, Marysville or points north, it often gets nastier. (And no less tedious.)

The problem is big, and so is the solution proposed by Sound Transit: A $54 billion tax package that would extend the current light-rail “spine” to DuPont in the south and Everett in the north — plus add arms reaching to the Eastside, West Seattle and Ballard.

This project, commonly known as ST3, will appear as Proposition 1 on the Nov. 8 ballot in Snohomish, King and Pierce counties — the jurisdictions that would be served by the proposed system and whose taxpayers would shoulder the cost.

Nobody debating this proposal — pro or con — denies traffic is a mess. There’s less agreement, however, about the timing, configuration and pricetag of ST3. And steadfast critics insist buses, not rail, could provide enough capacity with more flexibility and lower costs.

When it comes to timing, Snohomish County really has been at the end of the line.

An initial draft of ST3 would have extended light rail to Everett by 2041. Before the plan was finalized, however, the county’s Sound Transit representatives came up with an alternative that moved the date up to 2036 — with further hope of shaving a year or two off that target. Still, even this expedited schedule asks voters to invest in a system that is more likely to transport their children than to relieve the gridlock they endure today.

Snohomish County representatives also pushed back on the configuration. Proposition 1 reflects their insistence that light rail needs to reach Everett — as originally envisioned by transit planners — but also must serve the burgeoning employment center that Paine Field has become.

Even if Snohomish County voters are placated about timing and configuration, they must contemplate the $54 billion cost.

Let’s face it: Few light-rail proponents have experienced as much delayed gratification as those in Snohomish County.

From 1995 to 2015, Snohomish County contributed $1 billion in taxes to the transit district, but received only $870 million in benefits, mostly in the form of buses and an unreliable Sounder line. The county got the second-lowest level of return among all of Sound Transit’s five sub-areas.

Construction on the light-rail line to Lynnwood from Northgate is expected to break ground in 2018, with service starting in 2023. And the ST3 plan shows Snohomish County getting back bus and rail projects equivalent to all $9.3 billion that it would put in.

ST3 would be paid for with sales tax, property tax and car tabs. Sales tax would increase by half a percent (which would raise the rate to 9.7 cents per dollar in Everett and to more than 10 cents per dollar in much of south Snohomish County). Car-tab fees would go up by 0.8 percent, and property tax would go up 25 cents for each $1,000 of assessed valuation.

As opponents flinch at the price, ST3 advocates point out there will never be a cheaper time to build the system. After all, it would have cost less if voters had approved it in the late 1960s.

Now, citizens are left to consider: How much are we willing to pay to fix this problem? And if not a regional light-rail system, what is the alternative? We hope the information and analysis in this section helps you sort through these questions — and motivates you to vote on Nov. 8.

Neal Pattison is executive editor of The Daily Herald.

Stories in this special report

Is Sound Transit 3 the $54 billion answer to our congestion?

What Snohomish County would pay — and what ST3 would deliver

ST3 skepticism in Snohomish County might be irrelevant

Sound Transit CEO Peter Rogoff takes on critics of ST3

How was the timeline of ST3 shortened? Creative borrowing

Meet the constituencies for and against Sound Transit’s plan

Not a smooth ride: A brief history of Puget Sound light rail

ST3 is more than rail: A look at bus rapid transit

Talk to us

> Give us your news tips.

> Send us a letter to the editor.

> More Herald contact information.

More in Local News

A view of one of the potential locations of the new Aquasox stadium on Monday, Feb. 26, 2024 in Everett, Washington. The site sits between Hewitt Avenue, Broadway, Pacific Avenue and the railroad. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
20 businesses could be demolished for downtown Everett stadium

Some business owners say the city didn’t tell them of plans for a new AquaSox stadium that could displace their businesses.

Kathy Purviance-Snow poses for a photo in her computer lab at Snohomish High School on Tuesday, Feb. 27, 2024, in Snohomish, WA. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
To ban or embrace ChatGPT? Local teachers fight AI with AI — or don’t

“It has fundamentally changed my teaching in really stressful and exciting ways,” an EvCC teacher said. At all levels of education, ChatGPT poses a tricky question.

In this Feb. 5, 2018, file photo a Boeing 737 MAX 7 is displayed during a debut for employees and media of the new jet in Renton, Wash. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File)
FAA gives Boeing 90 days to develop plan to fix quality, safety issues

The agency’s ultimatum comes a day after a meeting with CEO Dave Calhoun and other top Boeing officials in Washington, D.C.

A heavily damaged Washington State Patrol vehicle is hauled away after a crash killed a trooper on southbound I-5 early Saturday, March 2, 2024, in Marysville, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
State trooper killed, 1 arrested in crash on I-5 near Marysville

Authorities said Trooper Chris Gadd had been stopped along the freeway around 3 a.m. near 136th Street NE. An SUV driver, 32, of Lynnwood, was arrested.

A man walks by Pfizer headquarters, Friday, Feb. 5, 2021, in New York. Pfizer will spend about $43 billion to buy Seagen and broaden its reach into cancer treatments, the pharmaceutical giant said. (AP Photo / Mark Lennihan, File)
Pfizer backs out of Everett manufacturing plant after $43B Seagen deal

Pfizer finalized the acquisition of the Bothell-based cancer drug developer in December.

Madi Humphries, 9, Rose Austin, 13, and Eirene Ritting, 8, on Thursday, Jan. 25, 2024 in Bothell, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
No grades, no teachers: Inside a Bothell school run by student vote

Each day at The Clearwater School, 60 students choose their own lessons. It’s one vote per person, whether you’re staff or student.

SonShine Preschool inside First Baptist Church Monroe is pictured Friday, March 1, 2024, in Monroe, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
SonShine preschool in Monroe to close at the end of the year

The preschool, operated by First Baptist Church, served kids for 25 years. School leadership did not explain the reason behind the closure.

Providence Hospital in Everett at sunset Monday night on December 11, 2017. Officials Providence St. Joseph Health Ascension Health reportedly are discussing a merger that would create a chain of hospitals, including Providence Regional Medical Center Everett, plus clinics and medical care centers in 26 states spanning both coasts. (Kevin Clark / The Daily Herald)
Following lawsuit, Providence commits to improved care for Deaf patients

Three patients from Snohomish County sued Providence in 2022 for alleged Americans with Disabilities Act violations.

Cars drive through snow along I-5 in Snohomish County, Washington on Thursday, Jan. 11, 2024.  (Annie Barker / The Herald)
In March, 7 p.m. sunsets are back for Western Washington

Washingtonians will finally start seeing more sun starting March 10. But a little more winter could be on the way first.

One of the parking lots at Stevens Pass Thursday afternoon on December 30, 2021.  (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
Stevens Pass to charge $20 for parking reservations on busy days

Two-thirds of spaces will remain free for early arrivers on weekends. Cars with four or more occupants can also park free.

Lynnwood
Days after shootout with Lynnwood police, suspect checks into hospital

Police learned the 18-year-old was in a hospital in Portland, Oregon. His alleged role in the shooting remained unclear.

Everett
Snohomish County pharmacy tech accused of stealing 2,500 opioid pills

Rachel Langdon stole oxycodone while working at a Snohomish County pharmacy, according to state Department of Health allegations.

Support local journalism

If you value local news, make a gift now to support the trusted journalism you get in The Daily Herald. Donations processed in this system are not tax deductible.