Construction of the Lynnwood Link light rail extension in Mountlake Terrace on Dec. 16. (Kevin Clark / Herald file)

Construction of the Lynnwood Link light rail extension in Mountlake Terrace on Dec. 16. (Kevin Clark / Herald file)

Leaders want pledge that Everett light rail will be on time

Sound Transit faces rising costs. Talk of “hard decisions” has Snohomish County officials concerned.

SEATTLE — As Sound Transit leaders confront surging cost estimates of expansion plans, Snohomish County officials are urging against saving money by delaying the extension of light rail to Everett.

The regional transit agency says the tab for Sound Transit 3 projects, including the Everett Link light rail extension, could be $11.5 billion more than when voters approved them in 2016.

Soaring prices for real estate — which is needed for right-of-way — plus higher costs for labor, materials and environmental work are the driving factors. Decreased revenue during the pandemic further complicates the equation, though the agency will receive $460 million in federal aid to soften the blow.

“There’s more project than money. We are going to have to make some hard decisions,” said Everett Councilman Paul Roberts, a vice chairman of the Sound Transit Board of Directors and one of three Snohomish County representatives on the panel.

Those decisions could be far-reaching to ST3. They’re looking at such steps as not building parking facilities or delaying extensions. What concerns the Snohomish County contingent of Roberts, Snohomish County Executive Dave Somers and Lynnwood Mayor Nicola Smith is that Everett — the farthest point north on the “spine” originally envisioned to connect it to Seattle and Tacoma — could see Link light rail arrive after 2036, the date promised to voters.

Months ago, the transit agency board agreed on core criteria to guide their decision-making, including ridership potential, socioeconomic equity, connecting urban centers, completing the spine from Everett to Tacoma and responding to the climate crisis. Earlier this week, Roberts delivered a written proposal to fellow board members arguing that the planned extension to Everett meets the criteria to be a priority.

“Sound Transit is building infrastructure for the next 100 years and beyond,” he wrote. “Sound Transit should complete the initial mission for which it was created, and do so in a manner that recognizes the climate crisis we face, meeting the transportation needs of the greatest number of people in the region as soon as possible.”

Roberts elaborated Thursday after a meeting of the agency’s executive committee.

“This is a regional system. Our job is to help make the case that it is a regional system,” he said. “I think connecting Everett and Tacoma show up really well, and if you’re going to address the climate crisis these (extensions) are the surrogates for it.”

Somers said his staff ranked ST3 projects in each criteria and the links to Everett and Tacoma came out on top.

“I thinks it’s inevitable that all projects could slip by two years, but our goal is to keep Everett as close to that as possible,” he said. “Given that we rank number one on all the criteria, that should be doable.”

When Sound Transit put the tax measure on the ballot in 2016, it came with a nearly $54 billion price tag to build light rail to Everett, Federal Way, Issaquah, Tacoma, Seattle’s Ballard and West Seattle neighborhoods, as well as expanding bus service throughout the taxing district, which spans parts of King, Pierce and Snohomish counties.

Those estimates were made in 2015, when the median home price in Snohomish County was $359,800. At the end of last year, that price rose to $495,100, according to data from the University of Washington Center for Real Estate Research.

Sound Transit hired a consulting firm to dig into the causes of the soaring cost projections. Its report is due to the full board April 22, ahead of board action on a realignment process that could delay, pare back or reshape ST3 projects.

Board members want to know why the costs are so much higher than envisioned. On Thursday, one of the consultants told the executive committee that much of the increases are “appropriate” for such a large undertaking.

“If you take a step back and look at the big picture with all the pluses and all the minuses, the estimates are appropriate for this kind of design,” said Andrew Kean, of the Triunity consulting team.

Also Thursday, the executive committee considered a staff report on the costs and benefits of providing parking at stations.

It showed ST3 assumes spending $655 million to add 5,125 stalls at six existing and proposed lots. That includes constructing two new garages with 950 spaces total to serve Everett Link, at an estimated $120 million price tag.

Meanwhile, members of the Everett City Council are interested in hearing directly from Sound Transit CEO Peter Rogoff on the evolving situation. Rogoff is tentatively scheduled to address city leaders April 28.

Reporter Jerry Cornfield: | @dospueblos

Talk to us

More in Local News

Photo by Kira Erickson/South Whidbey Record
Freeland resident Kevin Lungren has been commuting to the office using his paddleboard. It's a commute he can do in all seasons and just about any type of weather, except wind.
Whidbey commuter paddleboards his way to work in all seasons

The financial advisor says he’s only fallen off his board twice in the past five years.

Photo by Heather Mayhugh
Stuart Peeples demonstrates how to enter Heather Mayhugh's wheelchair van. In recent months, while navigating the new Mukilteo ferry terminal, Mayhugh has struggled to unload her clients who need access to the restroom.
People with mobility issues find new ferry terminal lacking

Some disabled folks say not enough thought went into improving the Mukilteo facility’s accessibility.

Temporary Lake Stevens Library to open this summer

The location will serve as the Sno-Isle branch until the proposed civic center campus is complete.

$500,000 available for Edmonds nonprofits

Organizations can apply for Edmonds Rescue Plan funds until Aug. 20.

Parts of Snohomish County under weekend heat advisory

Monroe and areas of the county near the Cascades were expected to see highs in the 90s.

Marysville man wins $100,000 in military vaccine lottery

Carmen S., who served in the Vietnam War, claimed his $100,000 cash prize this week.

Tirhas Tesfatsion (GoFundMe) 20210727
State AG says it can’t investigate Lynnwood Jail death

Tirhas Tesfatsion’s family pushed Lynnwood leaders for an independent inquiry. Her death was ruled a suicide.

JaNeen Aagaard donates blood at Bloodworks NW Friday afternoon in Everett at July 30, 2021.  (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
Blood shortage strains local agencies, hospitals

Some blood types have reached critically low levels, and blood collection agencies are pleading for donations.

COVID-19 case reported at crowded Lynnwood council meeting

A person who attended the Monday meeting tested positive for the coronavirus just days later.

Most Read