Coronavirus: Sound Transit projects $628 million in lost revenues through 2021

Sound Transit said it’s projecting $628.6 million in lost revenues through 2021 and has joined the nation’s largest transit agencies, including King County Metro, in pushing Congress for additional federal relief that better takes into account those staggering but preliminary estimates.

That projected loss is not covered by the nearly $166 million Sound Transit said it received from the CARES Act.

“Our systems will not be able to support the regions we serve without replenishing those losses,” the transit agencies said in a letter to congressional leaders this week. “Our regions cannot recover without public transportation, and the nation cannot recover without resurgent economies in our regions.”

Continued business closures have led to a drop in sales tax revenue that Sound Transit said is a critical revenue source, contributing to a deepening budget hole.

“We had a meeting of our executive committee [Thursday] morning and started to talk about the months ahead,” said Sound Transit CEO Peter Rogoff in an interview with KIRO 7. “To take an assessment of our revenue streams based on this new financial reality and make decisions about what projects can be delivered when.”

Rogoff said the agency is about to go through the same realignment process forced by the Great Recession and told us the funding formula for the next federal relief package should be based on the loss of non-federal revenues.

“We’re certainly grateful for it but unfortunately congress distributed [CARES Act] money based on a formula that really had no reflection of who was really impacted and who wasn’t,” said Rogoff.

Sound Transit said federally funding projects right now that have already completed planning and environmental reviews would help keep people working as the U.S. recovers from the pandemic.

“We want to continue to be an economic engine for the construction industry through this recovery,” said Rogoff. “That’s one of the ways we help the region recover.”

King County Metro said it anticipates the agency will need to reduce service by about 20 percent in the next two years.

In a statement to KIRO 7, Metro said in part, “Metro estimates the worsening financial impact of the public health crisis to be more than $1 billion over the next 10 years. We join with other transit agencies to sound the alarm and underline the urgent need for additional funding.”