Sound Transit sends massive light rail package to ballot

SEATTLE — The campaign has started over Sound Transit 3, the $54 billion ballot measure to expand light rail in King, Pierce and Snohomish counties.

Fast facts:

  • After the vote, the next stop for the $54 billion project will be the November ballot.
  • If Sound Transit 3 is passed by voters, tracks and stations will run north, south, east, and west, connecting every major city in the region, except Olympia.
  • The plan adds 62 miles of light rail, with stations serving 37 additional communities.
  • Light rail extensions would run from Tacoma to Seattle, out to West Seattle and up to Ballard. Further north, light rail would extend up to Everett via Paine Field.

The Sound Transit board voted unanimously Thursday to send it to the November ballot.

"Today we signal to commuters across the region that relief is on the way," said King County Executive and Sound Transit Board Chair Dow Constantine as he kicked off the campaign after the vote.

The centerpiece is extending light rail to Ballard, West Seattle, Tacoma, Everett, Kirkland and Issaquah, with lines opening between 2024 and 2039.

Opponents also launched their campaign on Thursday, saying ST3 is too expensive and will benefit too few people.

"This was just an incredible amount of money for very little solution. There are so many better ways to do this," said Frank Dennis of the "No on ST3" campaign.

ST3 would raise property, sales and car tab taxes, and extend two previously passed tax measures to fund light rail.

Sound Transit estimates that would cost the typical adult $200 more per year and the typical two-adult household $400 more per year.

The agency's estimate considers an average property value in the Sound Transit taxing district of $360,000.

It figures the typical household has 1.8 cars worth about $10,000 each.

For calculating sales tax, it uses the 2013 median household income of $67,000.

The King County assessor says the average assessed home value in the King County portion of the transit taxing district is $470,414.

In Sammamish, average values are over $700,000 and Deputy Mayor Ramiro Valderrama estimates an average household in his city will pay around $1,100 more in taxes.

Valderrama opposes ST3, saying his community won't get many benefits.

"I call it taxation without transportation," Valderrama said.