Federal Way faces $240 million payment for light rail, regardless of project's fate

$240 million: That’s the projected amount Federal Way will have paid into the Sound Transit light rail project by the time it’s finished in 2040 — regardless of whether light rail reaches the city.

Sound Transit recently announced that light rail in Federal Way will be scrapped, for now, due to a 31 percent shortfall in tax revenue collections for the South King County area.

As it stands now, that $240 million contribution from Federal Way over the course of 30 years will have gone toward every other project in the ST2 package except the extension of light rail to Federal Way. Since voters approved ST2 in 2008, Sound Transit has collected approximately $12 million from Federal Way, according to data provided by the city.

The $240 million overall cost to Federal Way taxpayers was calculated by the city’s finance director and based on the 30-year life of the bonds used to fund ST2; the cost assumes a 2 percent growth in sales tax revenue, according to the city.

Sound Transit predicts an overall revenue shortfall of $3.9 billion through 2023, when the Federal Way light rail station was scheduled for completion. The ST2 expansion included plans for a station near South 272nd Street and Pacific Highway South. That station would have linked Federal Way to the existing light rail line that runs from downtown Seattle to Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.

So far, Federal Way is the only location being cut from the ST2 package. Bringing light rail to Federal Way would require another ballot measure, said Sound Transit spokeswoman Kimberly Reason.

The Federal Way City Council has scheduled a special meeting on May 24 to pass a resolution regarding light rail in Federal Way, with the goal of making this a political issue. The meeting will start at 7 p.m. in the Patrick Maher room in City Hall.

City spokesman Chris Carrel said the special meeting will make official Federal Way’s position on the delay of light rail, but indicated Mayor Skip Priest and his council are unhappy with the current conditions.

“It’s fair to say that the mayor and the council are concerned with the broken promise we’re apparently being handed,” Carrel said.

The Sound Transit governing board will meet May 26 to consider options for bringing light rail past South 200th Street to include a stop at Highline Community College. In related news, it was announced this week that Sound Transit is planning to spend $2.1 million on researching rail and bus ridership.


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