Federal Way city leaders have said they strongly oppose Sound Transit’s projected delay in bringing light rail to Federal Way, setting up a showdown with the transit agency’s board Thursday.
The Federal Way City Council voiced its opposition Tuesday night by unanimously passing a resolution that included the possibility of legal action against Sound Transit.
The council urged Sound Transit to rethink its options to a delay, such as a less-expensive light rail route along Interstate 5 instead of State Route 99.
The seven council members also urged the transit agency to factor in ridership, population and socioeconomic profile to balance cuts among the five subareas of the regional system.
The resolution also left open the option of the city suing Sound Transit.
“The city is reviewing legal options to enforce” the 2008 ballot measure, the resolution said. That’s when voters approved a $17.9 billion mass transit measure that included bringing light rail to South 272nd Street.
City Attorney Pat Richardson said today she doesn’t know yet what the city’s legal alternatives are, but added filing a lawsuit is always a legal option.
The delay to Federal Way would put off and potentially jeopardize construction of light rail to Tacoma.
Tacoma City Council member Jake Fey said last week that Sound Transit should reconsider the goal of connecting light rail from Sea-Tac Airport to Tacoma. Fey is also a Sound Transit board member.
Federal Way Mayor Skip Priest and other city officials will state their opposition to delaying light rail to Federal Way at Sound Transit’s board meeting Thursday in Seattle.
The $600 million extension from Highline Community College to South 272nd Street is the only proposed cut from light-rail projects that were scheduled to be finished by 2023. Sound Transit now projects the earliest light rail will arrive in Federal Way is 2034 and could be as late as 2040.
The delay is due to falling revenue projections. Overall, Sound Transit is grappling with a $3.9 billion shortfall – or 25 percent – due to declining tax revenues.
But the revenue problems are especially acute for the South King County subarea.
South King’s revenue lags behind other subareas in two ways. South King projects required borrowing more money than in other subareas of the three-county system. Also, among those five subareas, South King County is projected to have the highest percentage shortfall in tax revenue from 2009 to 2023.
The transit system’s policy requires each of the five subareas to pay the costs of projects for their areas.
The Federal Way leaders recommend borrowing money between the South King and Pierce County subareas to make light rail to South 272nd Street more feasible.
Federal Way residents have paid more than $12 million in sales tax to the Sound Transit package voters approved in 2008. The city projects its residents will have paid $240 million in sales tax by 2038.
If light rail to South 272nd Street is delayed, the only added services Federal Way residents will get for their money before then is some continued bus service to and through Federal Way, said city spokesman Chris Carrel.