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Heading to the polls in Seattle
Sound Transit’s expansion proposal set for November ballot
After more than two years of planning, Sound Transit is approaching voters with a proposal to add 50 new miles of light-rail lines, and improve commuter-rail facilities and express bus service. Last month, the agency’s board adopted the $10.8 billion Sound Transit 2 Plan, which will be placed on the November ballot as part of a $17.6 billion “Roads & Transit” measure.
If approved, the measure will be funded through a 0.5 percent sales tax increase. The plan calls for extending light-rail service north from the University of Washington to Northgate, Shoreline, Mountlake Terrace and Lynwood; south through Des Moines, Federal Way and Fifte to the Tacoma Dome; and across Lake Washington to Mercer Island, Bellevue and Redmond. The plan also includes funds to add parking and make other improvements to Sounder commuter-rail and ST Express bus facilities, add streetcar service in downtown Seattle to connect the International District, First Hill and Capitol Hill areas, extend Sounder commuter-rail service to Thurston County and study additional transit extensions.
Also last month, Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire signed into law legislation that streamlines the Roads & Transit ballot measure. Under the previous ballot framework, projects proposed by Sound Transit and the Regional Transit Investment District (RTID) — which developed the “roads” portion of the measure — would have been voted on separately, but both packages would have needed to pass for either to take effect.
A simplified process
The legislation simplifies the measure to present central Puget Sound voters a single question on whether or not they want to approve the roads and transit program.
Votes will be counted once within the Sound Transit district and once within the RTID, which extends further north into Snohomish County. The measure will take effect if it passes in both districts, though the area the falls outside the Sound Transit district will only pay for road projects.
Sound Transit officials are optimistic the ballot measure will be approved. Agency and RTID officials sought public feedback for the plan and obtained more than 8,000 comments.
“[The Sound Transit 2 Plan] is the cornerstone of what we need to respond to our population growth and keep our economy moving,” said Sound Transit Board Vice Chair Connie Marshall in a prepared statement.