Transit plan will go to voters in November

SEATTLE – A 49-mile extension of Sound Transit’s light rail system has won approval of the Sound Transit Board of Directors to be submitted to voters in urban areas of King, Pierce and Snohomish counties in November.

Cost of the expansion to the Tacoma Dome in the south, near Mill Creek in the north and Redmond to the east by 2027 is currently estimated at $10.8 billion, but could run to $23 billion with inflation, financing costs and other factors, the board was told before the unanimous vote Thursday.

Besides adding to the 15.7 miles of light rail line now under construction, the package includes four parking garages, a bus transit center in Bothell, two Sounder rail stations and studies of potential light rail extensions to Everett, Issaquah, Ballard and Renton and in the Renton-Woodinville rail corridor east of Lake Washington.

“This is an historic example of regional cooperation,” said board member Connie Marshall, a Bellevue City Council member.

The plan would boost the sales tax by a nickel per $10 purchase, which officials estimate would run about $125 a year for a typical household.

Also expected to appear on the ballot Nov. 6 is a proposal for major highway improvements in the three counties at a cost of $6.7 billion in current dollars and $13.7 billion with financing and inflation taken into account.

The highway plan, which would cost a typical household about $93 a year in higher sales and car license taxes, goes before the three-county Regional Transportation Investment District board Thursday.

Opposition is has begun to appear from both sides of the roads vs. rails divide.

The Eastside Transportation Association, which favors highways, has aired radio ads that criticize the spending level on mass transit as excessive. Michael Ennis of the conservative Washington Policy Center said the transit plan would not do much to relieve traffic congestion.

The Sierra Club likely will oppose a “Roads &Transit” measure because additional highway lanes would worsen global warming, said local chairman Michael O’Brien.

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