The Sound Transit Board of Directors met this afternoon to act on a variety of end-of-year motions. A key action item was outlining the agency’s state legislative objectives for 2018. Legislators will head back to Olympia in a few short weeks and will likely take up discussion on transportation policy, including bills that could severely undermine Sound Transit’s ability to achieve goals and projects that voters backed in 2016 as part of Sound Transit 3.
Ideally, the state would be a partner in advancing the growth of public transit to sustain Puget Sound businesses and residents. However, the Democrats–who now have a complete majority in state government–have sought to roll back the clocks much like their Republican counterparts. The Sound Transit Board of Directors priorities acknowledge this threat. Two of their three general legislative priorities say as much:
Support and engage with partner agencies and others on efforts to facilitate the safe, cost-effective and efficient delivery of transit projects and services. Sound Transit has historically supported the legislative efforts of our partners and others that facilitate the efficient, safe and cost-effective delivery of transit projects and services. As part of on-going coordination efforts, Sound Transit will work in collaboration on efforts aimed at improving the transit system, including the earliest possible implmentation of positive train control, proposals impacting transit operations, the ORCA program, public safety and public works contracting.
Oppose legislation that increases the costs of transit improvements and services or otherwise impairs the agency’s ability to deliver its voter-approved regional high capacity transit program. Projecting a total of more than 47 million trips in 2017 across 51 cities, and with more than 10 billion capital investment to develop infrastructure throughout the past twenty years, the Sound Transit Board will oppose legislation that would negatively alter the oversight, planning, financing, construction, delivery and operation of Sound Transit projects and services.
Continue to work collaboratively with the State Legislature to address concerns related to Motor Vehicle Excise Taxes while preserving the agency’s ability to fully deliver the voter-approved plan within the adopted timeline. The Board’s motion M2017-37 directs Sound Transit staff to engage with the State Legislature and pursue options to address public concerns about Motor Vehicle Excise Taxes and the depreciation schedule in use for Sound Transit 3. Sound Transit will work with the Legislature to develop solutions that protect the agency’s ability to deliver the voter-approved plan within the adopted timeline.
The Sound Transit Board of Directors also approved several other motions, including:
- $1.9 billion in expenditures for the 2018 budget, with $317.5 million going to operations and $1.7 billion to capital investment projects (mostly light rail expansion projects, such as East Link, Northgate Link, Lynnwood Link, and Federal Way Link);
- Authorization to submit a $1.172 billion Full Funding Grant Agreement Application to the Federal Transit Administration for the Lynnwood Link extension;
- Adoption of the 2018 Service Implementation Plan, which largely keeps service the same;
- Authorizing an 18-month Alternatives Analysis contract with HDR Engineering, Inc. to evaluate options to extend light rail from Federal Way to Tacoma Dome;
- A new Partnering Agreement with Seattle to plan light rail extensions for Ballard and West Seattle; and
- An updated Transit Way Agreement in Seattle.
In the year ahead, there is much to look forward to from Sound Transit, but invariably challenges also lay ahead. Transit advocates should be cautiously optimistic and on guard.
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