• Sound Transit outlines plan for major light rail expansion

    By: Graham Johnson

    Updated:

    SEATTLE - New light rail tunnels beneath downtown Seattle could be part of a big ballot measure next year.

    On Friday, Sound Transit released details of how Seattle's single light rail line could expand to be more like a big-city subway system.

    "It's necessary for a growing city like Seattle, so I'm for it," said Chris Metcalfe as he rode Sound Transit's Link Light Rail.

     Sound Transit officials say the agency is considering as many as four one-way tubes beneath Fifth and Sixth Avenues to accommodate new light rail lines.

    Sound Transit released a map showing how lines might be split.

    One would run between Everett and West Seattle, another between Everett, Downtown Seattle and Redmond.

    A third line would expand the current Link, going between Ballard and Tacoma.

    "This is beginning to look like and operate like a real metropolitan subway system," said Ric Ilgenfritz, Sound Transit Executive Director for Planning and Project Development.

    New connecting tunnels could be part of the Sound Transit 3 ballot measure before voters in November 2016.

    Sound Transit says the typical adult in urban areas of King, Pierce and Snohomish Counties would pay $200 more per year because of higher property and sales taxes and car tab fees.

    Next year, Sound Transit's board will decide whether to ask voters to pay over 15, 20, or 25 years.

    "How far out into the future the program goes determines how many projects we can do," said Ilgenfritz.

    The 25-year option would bring in $27 billion in local taxes, plus $21 billion in other revenue, for a total of $48 billion.

    The tunnel machine Bertha's delays digging the State Route 99 tunnel could make voters hesitant to fund new tunnels.

    But Seattle Mayor Ed Murray points out Sound Transit has a much better tunneling track record than the state.

    "We can build tunnels in this region on time and on budget," Murray said.

    In late March, Sound Transit will release a draft of which projects make it into the ballot measure.

    The list will be finalized in June before the vote in November.

    More details on Sound Transit’s analysis of light rail routes can be found at soundtransit3.org.  

     

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