Sound Transit slow down if I-976 passes

VIDEO: Redmond celebrates ground breaking of new Sound Transit light rail station

Officials today celebrated the beginning of construction on the downtown Redmond light rail station, now scheduled to open in 2024.

"This means better transportation for residents but also for the employees that work here," said Mayor John Marchione.

But a political cloud hung over the celebration.

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"I'd also like to say what everybody else is probably thinking: Vote on 976," said Monty Anderson, of the Building Trades Council, about Initiative 976.

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Created by initiative promoter Tim Eyman, I-976 would roll back car tab fees to $30. It would also reduce revenues by rolling back inflated car tax valuations to Kelly Blue Book levels.

It strikes hard at Sound Transit light rail, costing the agency an estimated $20 billion in revenues and borrowing authority.
"Whenever we don't have sufficient revenues, it's longer time and the projects get more expensive," said Sound Transit Chief Executive Officer Peter Rogoff. When asked if I-976 would shut down Sound Transit, he replied, "No," because, he said, the agency still has an obligation to complete the projects the voters approved in 2016's Sound Transit 3.

Marchione, who chairs the Sound Transit Board, said, "Places like Everett and Tacoma might have to be pushed out because our cash flows will be short."

There are no precise numbers but it could take a decade longer to finish the projects the voters approved in Sound Transit 3. At another event today, the Northwest Progressive Institute revealed a map showing road and transit projects at risk in large and small  towns across the state because I-976 also restricts the local authority to raise money from car tabs.

A lot of that money goes to pay for bus service, not only in Seattle but in many smaller cities, too.

"The worst-case scenario is dire cuts to both transit and road services all over the state," said Andrew Villeneuve, founder of the Northwest Progressive Institute.

Eyman has said his goals are to cap car tab fees at $30 and to rein in a Sound Transit agency he sees as unrepresentative and unfair. His $30 car tab initiatives have never lost at the ballot box.