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Federal Way council lashes out at Sound Transit

Post by Steve Maynard / The News Tribune on May 17, 2011 at 10:52 pm with 12 Comments »
May 18, 2011 6:29 pm

Federal Way City Council members voiced anger, dismay and disappointment Tuesday night that Sound Transit plans to postpone expanding light rail to Federal Way from 2023 to as late as 2040.

Council member Jim Ferrell erupted when a Sound Transit official said the planned extension from Highline Community College to South 272nd Street is the only proposed cut from Sound Transit projects to be finished by 2023.

“That’s absolutely incredible,” Ferrell said. “You left us with the impression that times are tough all over. Apparently, they’re only tough for South King County.”

David Beal, acting director of planning and development for Sound Transit, told the council the proposed delay of the Federal Way extension – estimated to cost $600 million – is due to falling revenue projections.

The Federal Way extension planned in 2008 required more money to be borrowed than in other areas of the three-county light rail system, Beal said.

The economic downtown since then compounded the problem, he said.

Sales tax collections for Sound Transit’s South King County subarea are projected to fall by 31 percent from 2009 to 2023. Each subarea is expected to pay the costs for its Sound Transit projects.

Sound Transit hasn’t been able to resolve the confluence of funding problems for bringing light rail to Federal Way, Beal said.

If light rail doesn’t arrive in Federal Way by 2034 at the earliest as Sound Transit projects, Tacoma will have an even longer wait, Federal Way Mayor Skip Priest said.

“If you’re in Tacoma, I don’t think you’ve been born yet if you’re going to see light rail,” Priest said. “If it is a dream here, it is a mirage in Tacoma.”

The Federal Way council successfully lobbied to have the Federal Way extension included in the $17.9 billion measure for mass transit expansion that voters approved in November 2008.

“We helped you to get the bond passed,” council member Linda Kochmar told Beal. “Now, you’re telling us, ‘Sorry, guys.’”

Council member Dini Duclos said she doesn’t believe rapid transit will ever make it to Federal Way.

“While everyone else is getting the trains, we’re getting the shaft,” Duclos said.

“I want to know how much money has come from here and what has happened to it,” she said.

The council scheduled a special meeting for May 24 to craft and vote on a resolution opposing the delay. City officials then plan to speak out at Sound Transit’s board meeting May 26.

Beal said Sound Transit is grappling with a $3.9 billion shortfall – or 25 percent – due to declining sales tax revenues.

He said Sound Transit’s board won’t make final decisions on where to cut for another two years. He said the transit board will work hard to solve the problem of service to Federal Way as best as it can.

“We’re not surprised they’re frustrated,” said Beal of the council’s anger. “This is a very important project to them and a very important project to us.”

Leave a comment Comments → 12
  1. The Council is bothered that South King County is being left out??? Your neighbors to the South have been paying for this pie-in-the-sky deal for just as long as you and we’re LAST on the list. How’s it feel to get the scraps from King County’s table??

  2. rusirius says:

    in the mean time, Sound Transit is spending its money fighting it out in Bellevue and over extending light rail onto I-90. why not just take that money and build the south king county tacoma line which everybody wants? mass transit is a good idea. sound transit is poorly run. by people who blanche at having to go to …. gulp,.. federal way.

  3. nonstopjoe says:

    What happens to the money collected in the Federal Way/Tacoma sub-area – is it set aside until needed, or is it grabbed by other sub-areas and spent there?

  4. fatuous says:

    “Sales tax collections for Sound Transit’s South King County subarea are projected to fall by 31 percent from 2009 to 2023. Each subarea is expected to to pay the costs for its Sound Transit projects.”

    This doesn’t make sense to me. There are no quotation marks. Maybe the TNT writer goofed.

  5. aranciata says:

    If it would make them feel any better I would not mind them annexing lower Pacific & Commerce and everything within a block on each side of both all the way from East D Street to S 10th and they can take East D as well from Pacific to the parking garages. That way they will have their own light rail and we will be rid of a part of Tacoma that is nothing but a liability. And yes I am including all of the museums in that offer.

  6. @aranciata
    I see you will cut off the nose to spite your face. It is exactly the Sound approach that is the problem here.

  7. Last I checked, Sound Transit had a spur of light rail in Tacoma, why not extend that piece south to the joint bases and north to Fife? Why is having a slow, clunky light rail line to Seattle the aim when Sound Transit buses cover that ground quite nicely???

  8. abcs: buses and the Sounder train. ST needs to drop the light rail issue and work on untying the Gordian Knot of regular gauge trains on already existing track. Seattle to Tacoma needs rail service, but it’s regular trains, not trolleys.

  9. TacomaFan1 says:

    It appears that Sound Transit has been taxing Pierce, South King County and Snohomish County citizens all these years just to serve the needs of Seattle and Bellevue citizens. I feel duped.

  10. harleyrider1 says:

    This was pretty funny. Everyone is surprised? It’s been this way for years. Dead people in Seattle andf King County voted for your governor. It’s fixed.

    And now you want your monies back. Good luck on getting any accountability or suing to return monies you didn’t get.

    Calm down, by 2036 there will be new technology they will return and ask you to contribute too. And you will. You’re Washingtonians. It’s what you do.

  11. lavalamp425 says:

    I hope everyone realizes that Sound Transit has sub-area equity, which means that the taxes raised in the different subareas can ONLY be used in that subarea. Taxes collected in Seattle (North King subarea) are used only in Seattle; taxes collected in Des Moines, Kent, or Auburn (South King subarea) are used only in those areas, etc.. You can’t take Bellevue’s money and use it to build a light rail line to Federal Way. Conversely you can’t take Federal Way’s money and use it to fund (for example) express buses from downtown Seattle to Everett.

    Federal Way isn’t getting light rail because South King County’s economy has gone down, more so than the other subareas. That’s not Sound Transit’s fault.

  12. papasan says:

    TacomaFan1 feels “duped” . My entire houusehold voted “NO” on the transit issue all 3 times. We don’t feel “duped’, we feel that we can do the “I told you so” dance. Even though we are right, what we feel is “screwed” by Seattle, Bellvue and ALL of King county that feels that we should remain part of some “trickle down” transit system.
    I wonder if Tim Eyeman could get us our money back by way of an initiative. We’ll call it the “Let Seattle choke on their trains” issue. Let ‘em pay for their own toys.

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