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Too soon for Sound Transit to write off Pierce County

Post by Kim Bradford on May 17, 2011 at 6:04 pm with 8 Comments »
May 17, 2011 5:05 pm

This editorial will appear in Wednesday’s print edition.

A down economy could leave potential Federal Way and Pierce County light rail users waiting at the station – permanently.

Sound Transit anticipates a $3.9 billion hole in the $18 billion transit plan voters approved in 2008, a hole that would likely swallow plans to extend light rail to the northern end of Federal Way.

Agency officials recently projected that building the line out to South 272nd Street would require at least 11 extra years and the cancellation of all other transit projects in south King County.

The best transit planners figure they can do is get the line to Highline Community College in Des Moines, two miles to the north. Even that plan would require sacrifices – possibly the postponement of parking expansions at Sounder rail stations in Kent and Auburn.

Still, a temporary terminus at Highline is a better outcome than the agency had thought it could deliver: a final station at South 200th Street in SeaTac. Every mile closer to Federal Way helps seed the argument for the line’s build-out to Tacoma.

That’s if there is to be a build-out. Sound Transit board member Julia Patterson, who represents South King County on the King County Council, is raising the question of whether light rail should extend beyond Highline, ever.

Her argument: The farther south Sound Transit pushes light rail, the longer it takes to get to Seattle – and the less useful light rail is.

Such comments reflect an extremely Seattle-centric view of the region. The issue isn’t just how long it takes to get north to Seattle. It’s also how long it takes to get to Sea-Tac Airport and other points south of Seattle – and, amazingly enough, how long it takes to get south to Tacoma or Federal Way.

This region has to rid itself of the notion that commuting is all about getting to Seattle and central King County. True congestion relief isn’t just running more buses or trains to the big city. It’s also about creating new employment centers so that workers aren’t all headed in the same direction.

The South Sound needs to create jobs, and that requires a way to get to them. Companies here won’t ever reach their potential without reliable connections to the region.

Same goes for our educational institutions. The University of Washington Tacoma, which was created to serve South King County as well as Pierce, Kitsap and Thurston, will never fulfill that mission if Interstate 5 remains a roadblock to reaching the school.

The recession may have temporarily derailed Sound Transit’s plans, but the cusp of a recovery is no time to be talking about leaving Pierce County and Federal Way stranded for good. The South Sound should be concerned about any suggestion that it remain a mass transit backwater.

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Leave a comment Comments → 8
  1. rockrabbit says:

    Couldn’t agree more!

  2. TheMASO says:

    The taxpayers want our money back……
    Just this week Seattle broke ground for a tunnel to extend light rail to UofW.
    Stop assessing RTA on my truck registration.
    We have been sold out by the politicians again.
    This will continue until the democat controlled King County is told–no more!
    So very sad!!!

  3. Dave98373 says:

    Exanding transportation is crucial to Pierce county and its economy. However, there are only four members out of eighteen that represent Pierce county or cities within Pierce county. And one of those members is from Lakewood. Lakewood is a city which traditionally has opposed any expansion of Sound Transit’s Sounder expansion project. Factor in the recent vote against Pierce Transit and soon to come budget cuts, and it’s no wonder why Sound Transit spends more money and time closer to Seattle.
    And how do you expect Sound Transit to support anything near Pierce county when we don’t even support our own local transit system?

  4. scott0962 says:

    So Sound Transit has been collecting taxes from Pierce County residents but will be spending it in King County? Anyone surprised by that has either been in a coma for the last several decades or is too naive to vote. Whenever someone in Seattle proposes a “regional” solution to anything you can be sure they mean “we want it to benefit us but we’ll let you help pay for it.”

  5. Sumner31 says:

    If I don’t benefit, I don’t vote for it.

  6. scott0962: Under the policy of subarea equity, Sound Transit must spent any taxes it collects in Pierce County in Pierce County. The problem here is the subarea of south King County, where tax collections have taken the biggest hit. Some might argue that subarea equity, while a big help to getting transit packages passed at the ballot box, is a hindrance to building a comprehensive transit system. Pierce County stands to benefit from extending light rail to Federal Way and the King County line but under subarea equity can’t contribute to making that happen.

  7. royboy361 says:

    Somehow I knew this would happen. Pierce County on the short end of the stick again. It will be years before we can get light rail down there but please keep those bucks rolling in for King County.

  8. billyizme says:

    Is anyone really surprised that Pierce County gets taken again ?

    If Sound Transit is unable to produce what they told the voters, then the tax should be ended and the money refunded.

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