LIGHT RAIL DELAY? Sound Transit board decides not to decide until next year

The Sound Transit board won’t decide on potentially delaying projects until July 2021.

That follows discussions at recent committee meetings, during which some board members had voiced alarm that “realignment” decisions with decades-long ramifications might be made too soon, too hastily.

At the board’s monthly meeting this afternoon, they agreed to a timeline (see it here) that would keep all planning of Sound Transit 3 (and remaining ST2) projects moving forward for now. As she had done at an Executive Committee meeting, CFO Tracy Butler reminded the board that current financial projections have ST coffers falling as much as $12 billion short through the life of Sound Transit 3’s plan (which has some projects in the 2040s, with West Seattle light rail currently scheduled to open in 2030).

The board also was reminded that if they chose, for example, to add a 5-year delay to all in-planning projects, that would be “affordable” within current reduced-revenue estimates. But planning director Don Billen also reiterated that a one-size-fits-all approach like that might not be wise, so the agency will embark on a more-nuanced process, including “public engagement” early next year, before finalizing a realigned plan next summer. (You can see the criteria they’ll use in the slide deck from the meeting.)

21 Replies to "LIGHT RAIL DELAY? Sound Transit board decides not to decide until next year"

  • Still just a peninsula June 25, 2020 (5:14 pm)

    Sorry folks!  West Seattle is not the spine of the Sound Transit vision.  We are more like a leg (or a branch from the trunk).  Don’t expect West Seattle Light Rail for this generation (e.g., next 25 years).  Perhaps one day we will have better Metro service (after COVID but before a second high volume way to cross the Duwamish).

    • East Coast Cynic June 26, 2020 (10:45 am)

        Based on what the board believes, the mid 2030’s sounds more realistic for delay of West Seattle, as well as other projects given the revenue shortfalls vs. the 2040’s for our project.

  • Mel June 25, 2020 (5:37 pm)

    We understand that this is likely the death knell for a tunnel option, right? That option was going to make the line less affordable, and they didn’t know where the extra money was going to come from even before COVID kneecapped the ST budget. It was worth a try, though!

    • Chemist June 25, 2020 (11:20 pm)

      It could also be the dell knell for the “upgrade” to a Ballard high bridge (once thought to be a reasonable reach with the contingency budget), Ballard tunnel, and possibly could result in dropping stations (why was Sound Transit resistant to dropping the Avalon station with 3 in West Seattle so close together… so they could drop stations and perhaps later infill).  You can also save a lot of money on a bridge into Ballard if you use a high-rise gondola (like The Urbanist advocates for).

      • East Coast Cynic June 26, 2020 (10:40 am)

        They are probably resistant to dropping the Avalon station because there will be a lot of people connecting from the bus from the southern most neighborhoods of the peninsula – Highpoint, Gatewood, Fauntleroy, and Arbor Heights – a lot of people in those areas that would be connecting to link at Avalon.

        • Chemist June 26, 2020 (7:44 pm)

          Yes, and those buses that use 35th would be 100s of millions worth of inconvenienced to run down Avalon to drop off passengers or zig over on Alaska.

  • DRC June 25, 2020 (6:48 pm)


  • JeffK June 25, 2020 (8:46 pm)

    Those just graduating now will be able to use it one day.  Unsure for the rest of us.

  • Joe Blough June 25, 2020 (9:01 pm)

    What tunnel?

  • TM7302 June 25, 2020 (11:10 pm)

    So, let me get this right… They are delaying the decision on  potentially delaying projects?  Genius!

    • Peter June 26, 2020 (12:00 pm)

      Actually, it is. In one year they will have a much better idea of how funding will be impacted, and planning will be farther along so they’ll have a much better idea of costs and timelines for construction, how those would be affected by changes in funding, have time to evaluate other funding options, and have more time to evaluate future planning. Making decisions based on more and better information is always better than quick decisions with less information. So yes, it is genius. 

      • Blang June 26, 2020 (6:38 pm)

        They said 2030.  People voted to waste a lot of hard earned money for 2030.  If they miss calculated shame on them.

      • TM7302 June 29, 2020 (9:20 am)

        You must be a politician…

  • ITT Fan June 26, 2020 (8:27 am)

    Maybe the ITT will be the answer to the budget problem and afford the possibility of Light Rail coming to the peninsula sooner than later. Sound Transit cooperating with SDOT cooperating with Port of Seattle would be powerful. Hope springs eternal? (Alexander Pope)

    • Nick June 29, 2020 (1:31 pm)

      The grades to get to the junction just dont work. Starting from the ground near the Chelan Cafe and with the topography in the area make it a nightmare. 

  • Lagartija Nick June 26, 2020 (9:09 am)

    This is the best possible news on this front. Hopefully the political landscape in this country will have drastically changed come next year. Making a decision now puts future funding in jeopardy.

  • Kathy June 26, 2020 (10:30 am)

    Another affirmation that the decision to postpone the 100% designed and funded Fauntleroy Boulevard Project  was very stupid and shortsighted. Oh, wait, now the funding is gone? Since the West Seattle Bridge is now closed, now would be the ideal time to start construction on it. For decades it has been unsafe to walk and bike to businesses in that area. The city failed in it’s promise to provide interim safety improvements. They did a few improvements in limited areas which do nothing to address the safety needs such as lack of curb cuts and bike lanes along the entire corridor. It’s quite ironic that the decision to delay the Fauntleroy Boulevard Project was caused by motorists worried about construction causing traffic congestion and an administration only too eager to cave in to those fears.

    • Joe Z June 26, 2020 (4:52 pm)

      The bike infrastructure could be added with about $500 of paint. Just do it now! There isn’t any traffic on Fauntleroy anymore. 

  • JAG June 26, 2020 (12:46 pm)

    It says that In December 2020 the board will decide which projects to prepare for construction. Does that mean they will make a decision where they are building the stations and the routes in West Seattle  in December? 

    • WSB June 26, 2020 (1:27 pm)

      No. That is generally a reference to projects that are further down the line. The West Seattle-Ballard draft EIS isn’t even out yet.

  • anonyme June 26, 2020 (1:08 pm)

    Scrap the whole thing.

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