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South Sounders share Federal Way’s transit frustration

Post by TNT Editorial Board / The News Tribune on Jan. 31, 2012 at 5:52 pm |
January 31, 2012 2:55 pm

This editorial will appear in Wednesday’s print edition.

Some Federal Way-area officials are so unhappy with Sound Transit that they’re contemplating secession from the tri-county transportation agency. There’s no mechanism for such a move, but that’s not stopping them from talking about it.

Their pain is our pain – to a point.

Sound Transit has determined that sales tax revenues from the South King County sub-area have fallen so steeply that the agency must delay extension of light rail to Federal Way from 2023 to 2034 or later. That delay means that the next light rail leg – to Tacoma – will be delayed as well. Originally projected to be completed by 2029, it’s now looking like sometime in the 2040s.

In other words, that short Link light rail line in downtown Tacoma is it for many who are reading this. That’s disappointing for voters who approved an 0.5 percent sales tax hike in 2008 based on the earlier timeline for buildout.

However, Pierce County has something Federal Way doesn’t: In addition to express buses, commuters can ride Sounder commuter rail between downtown Tacoma and Seattle with stops in Puyallup, Sumner, Auburn, Kent and Tukwila. In the fall, the line is scheduled to extend south to Lakewood.

Federal Way commuters don’t have that rail option. They can take the bus or brave Interstate 5 at rush hour. That’s it.

Their frustration is understandable, hence the chatter about secession from some in Sound Transit’s South King County sub-area. State Rep. Katrina Asay, R-Milton, even introduced legislation to allow cities to withdraw from the agency if it doesn’t live up to estimates.

That kind of defeats the purpose of a regional transit agency. If Federal Way and other cities were to withdraw, then at some point in the future the light rail gets built, should it not stop in those cities that pulled out?

State Sen. Tracey Eide, D-Des Moines, is right in urging calm – and waiting to see what a performance audit planned by state Auditor Brian Sonntag has to say. Is the agency using scarce funds as responsibly as it should?

Talk of secession is premature. Let’s see what the audit says and go from there.

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