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Rail News: Passenger Rail

Light-rail opponents call for delay, audit


"Sound Transit will not turn a shovel of dirt on the light-rail project until we know we can pay for it," said Edmonds City Councilmember and Sound Transit Board Chairman Dave Earling at a Sept. 6 Seattle news conference.

Earling was responding to a letter drafted by light rail opponents, which called for an independent audit of Sound Transit’s cost and ridership estimates, as well as its financial capability to implement the transportation plan within existing policies.

Opponents also called for Sound Transit to hold all light rail-related activity three months and reconsider signing a $500 million federal full-funding agreement until the audit is completed. Earling urged Seattle-area residents not to be "fooled by talk of a short delay."

"We would lose our place in line and the money will go somewhere else," he said. "It could be years — or never — before we are queued up again."

Sound Transit’s financial transactions already are subject to audit by Deloitte & Touche and Washington state, said Earling. Other groups, including a Citizens Oversight Panel and the Federal Transit Administration, also monitor the agency’s activities.

Board members, and business, labor and environmental representatives also added commitment assurances.

"They will exert fiscal control and are willing to pull the plug if things get too far out of control," says Denny Fleenor, Sound Transit spokesman.

Meanwhile, negotiations continue for a design/build contract to construct a 4.5-mile tunnel portion of the light-rail line. Officials believe negotiations will conclude before year-end.

Kathi Kube

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 9/7/2000