The Sound Transit Board of Directors have picked a new crop of leaders to guide the regional transit agency over the next two years. In a vote by the Board of Directors, Snohomish County Executive Dave Somers was appointed as the new board Chair with Redmond Mayor John Marchione and Tacoma Mayor Marilyn Strickland also being appointed to top positions as Vice Chairs.
Somers is filling the shoes of King County Executive Dow Constantine who chaired the board over a three-year period. Constantine’s tenure leading board involved development of a new long-range plan, opening the University Link and Angle Lake light rail extensions, authorizing a major transit-oriented development agreement in Capitol Hill, shepherding the Sound Transit 3 process and successfully leading the measure to victory. Those are big shoes to fill, indeed.
Strickland, who was first appointed as Vice Chair two years ago, will continue in her role under the reappointment. In her neck of the woods, the Tacoma Link extension is well into final design and could break ground in the next year or so. Joining her is Marchione who will be making his first leap into the Vice Chair leadership role on the board, just as the East Link extension begins to snake its way from Bellevue to Redmond. With Mayor Marchione moving into the Vice Chair role, he is replacing Everett City Councilmember Paul Roberts.
The Sound Transit Board of Directors will be faced with many important issues over the next few years as work on the Sound Transit 3 program begins and construction commences on new transit facilities already programmed as part of Sound Transit 2. Other key responsibilities of the board will include awarding contracts, implementing service plans, surplussing and purchasing property, and devising transit-oriented development plans. The power over the purse is a particularly important function that boardmembers perform. Last month, the body approved a $1.6 billion budget with the bulk of it–a whole $1.2 billion–going toward capital transit expansion programs such as Link extensions. Day-to-day management of the agency, however, is in the hands of Sound Transit CEO Peter Rogoff.
Aside from their Sound Transit roles, Somers, Marchione, and Strickland hold significant influence on transit regionally and locally in other ways. As executives of their own jurisdictions, they have unmatched weight in directing how city and county land use controls and development policies complement future Sound Transit investments and putting transportation funding toward local multi-modal projects that support access to transit. All three also serve on the Executive Board of the Puget Sound Regional Council (PSRC) with Somers and Marchione standing in on that board in opposite positions with Somers as the Vice President and Marchione as President and Strickland as a regular member. The PSRC as a metropolitan planning organizarion has extraordinary latitude in allocating how federal transportation dollars get spent across the region–frequently for transit, routinely for Sound Transit, and often for Link–and implementation of cohesive growth management policies and frameworks that support urban, rural, and natural environments.
With their collective political reach, this trio could be a formidable force in guiding transit decisions and smart growth principles that go with them in the coming years.
Doug Trumm is publisher of The Urbanist. An Urbanist writer since 2015, he dreams of pedestrianizing streets, blanketing the city in bus lanes, and unleashing a mass timber building spree to end the affordable housing shortage and avert our coming climate catastrophe. He graduated from the Evans School of Public Policy and Governance at the University of Washington in 2019. He lives in East Fremont and loves to explore the city on his bike.