Let Sound Transit seek $15 billion

Supporters of the third phase of Sound Transit’s plan to extend its Link light rail into Everett, Tacoma and Redmond, dubbed ST3, know that the project’s $15 billion price tag may not be an easy sell to voters who will be asked to approve a package of tax increases to fund construction.

What would be more difficult, they say, is selling an $11 billion tax package that can only build a light rail system that’s 27 percent less than originally proposed.

The Republican-led state Senate’s tax package, passed last month, would give Sound Transit the authority to go to voters for approval of the ST3 plan, but limits the amount Sound Transit can seek from the transit district’s voters in Snohomish, King and Pierce counties to $11 billion, not the full $15 billion the transit agency says is needed for construction.

Sound Transit’s board of directors in December approved a general route for expansion into Everett, Tacoma and Redmond. By 2036, Everett’s route would extend Link from its Lynwood terminal to Everett Station and its transit services, with a loop that would serve Boeing and the other aerospace and manufacturing employers around Paine Field. But, said Paul Roberts, a Sound Transit board member and Everett City Council member, with routes also planned for Tacoma and Redmond, $11 billion, rather than $15 billion, would force cuts in the plan that would limit its service and effectiveness or could lead to infighting among communities as each sought to protect their piece of the system.

The ST3 expansion would be funded through a package of tax increases that would have to be approved in 2016 by Sound Transit district voters in the three counties. It would include increases to the Motor Vehicle Excise Tax, sales tax and property tax, that Sound Transit estimates would represent a median cost of about $78 for each adult annually. Median cost means half will pay less, half will pay more.

Sound Transit believes there is support for the full $15 million project and its taxes. Among the findings of a survey of potential voters that the transit agency released in January:

  • 52 percent in Snohomish County and 56 percent overall see expansion of transit as the best way to alleviate traffic problems; 37 percent in the county favored expansion of roads and highways;
  • 84 percent in Snohomish County supported expansion of light rail; 50 percent “strongly” and 34 percent “somewhat”;
  • 75 percent in Snohomish County — 36 percent “strongly” and 39 percent “somewhat” — supported the $15 billion in taxes;
  • 70 percent overall — 37 percent “strongly” and 33 percent “somewhat” — said they would support a $15 billion package of taxes;
  • And when those polled were given the cost estimate of $78 per adult annually, the overall support remained strong at 70 percent, 37 percent “strongly,” 33 percent “somewhat.”

The Legislature was correct in giving Sound Transit the green light to go the voters to extend light rail but wrong to make the decision to cut the amount being sought. When the House and Senate negotiate a transportation budget, the ability to seek the full $15 billion should be restored Allow the voters to determine what they are willing to pay.

Talk to us

More in Opinion

FILE — In this Sept. 17, 2020 file photo, provided by the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, Chelbee Rosenkrance, of the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, holds a male sockeye salmon at the Eagle Fish Hatchery in Eagle, Idaho. Wildlife officials said Tuesday, Aug. 10, 2021, that an emergency trap-and-truck operation of Idaho-bound endangered sockeye salmon, due to high water temperatures in the Snake and Salomon rivers, netted enough fish at the Granite Dam in eastern Washington, last month, to sustain an elaborate hatchery program. (Travis Brown/Idaho Department of Fish and Game via AP, File)
Editorial: Pledge to honor treaties can save Columbia’s salmon

The Biden administration commits to honoring tribal treaties and preserving the rivers’ benefits.

Editorial cartoons for Monday, Oct. 2

A sketchy look at the news of the day.… Continue reading

Comment: Online retailers should follow FTC’s lead in Amazon suit

The antitrust suit provides a rule book on how to incentivize rather than punish sellers and customers.

Comment: Starbucks’ reusuable cups aren’t so climate-friendly

Some reusable products generate more emissions than the disposable items they’re meant to replace.

Comment: Parental vigilance of social media can go too far

A shift from “monitoring” to “mentoring” can allow teens to learn to make their own wise choices.

Eco-nomics: Climate report card: Needs more effort but shows promise

A UN report shows we’re not on track to meet goals, but there are bright spots with clean energy.

Comment: Child tax credit works against child povery; renew it

After the expanded credit ended in 2021, child poverty doubled. It’s an investment we should make.

Patricia Gambis, right, talks with her 4-year-old twin children, Emma, left, and Etienne in their home, Thursday, Jan. 24, 2019, in Maplewood, N.J. Gambis' husband, an FBI agent, has been working without pay during the partial United States government shutdown, which has forced the couple to take financial decisions including laying off their babysitter. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
Editorial: Shutdown hits kids, families at difficult moment

The shutdown risks food aid for low-income families as child poverty doubled last year and child care aid ends.

Sen. June Robinson, D-Everett, left, and Sen. Mark Mullet, D-Issaquah, right, embrace after a special session to figure out how much to punish drug possession on Tuesday, May 16, 2023, in Olympia, Wash. Without action, Washington's drug possession law will expire July 1, leaving no penalty in state law and leaving cities free to adopt a hodgepodge of local ordinances.  (Karen Ducey/The Seattle Times via AP)
Editorial: Robinson smart choice to head Senate budget panel

A 10-year legislative veteran, the Everett senator displays a mastery of legislation and negotiation.

Most Read