Light rail lawsuit? Federal Way considers legal action against Sound Transit

A planned expansion of light rail to Federal Way has been delayed indefinitely. - File photo
A planned expansion of light rail to Federal Way has been delayed indefinitely.
— image credit: File photo

“The city is reviewing legal options to enforce the ballot measure Sound Transit presented to voters on the November 20, 2008, election to specifically bring light rail to Federal Way.”

And with that simple statement, the Federal Way City Council ratcheted up the pressure on Sound Transit. The city wants a reasonable explanation for the transit authority’s decision to exclude the completion of light rail to Federal Way. Meeting in a special session Tuesday evening, the council voted unanimously to pass the resolution.

Along with the possibility of legal action, the resolution passed by the council included a number of other talking points. In a May 25 press release, the city shared other parts of the resolution for Sound Transit to consider:

• An alternative alignment along I-5 that would reduce construction and operating costs and provide faster travel times for commuters

• Factoring in population, ridership and projected demand when balancing cuts among the region’s five sub-areas

• Ensuring the cost-effectiveness of Sound Transit lines by investing its limited resources in those with the lowest capital and operating costs per rider

• Use of inter-sub-area borrowing to support extensions to poorer sub-areas, like South King County

“Our goal is to help the working class of Federal Way,” said Mayor Skip Priest. “As a council and a city, we work very hard to create constructive solutions given the very trying economic times everyone is facing. For Sound Transit not to make that same argument and have that discussion about how we can meet the goal of helping the working class in the most thoughtful and cost-effective manner is not meeting their responsibility.”

Sound Transit government and community relationship specialist Rachel Smith recognized Federal Way’s ire at the issue of the light rail delay.

“Obviously we understand that they’re frustrated and sympathize with that, and we also feel frustrated,” she said. “We will be moving forward working with Federal Way, along with our other partner jurisdictions, trying to clarify some of the points here to make sure we can move forward successfully.”

On Thursday, Mayor Skip Priest, along with council members Linda Kochmar and Jeanne Burbidge, represented the city at Sound Transit’s regular board meeting. Touching on many of the issues that have been raised since the news first broke that light rail was going to be delayed, both sides kept the discussion civil and congenial. The one idea that seemed to gain traction among the 18-member Sound Transit board was the realignment of light rail along the I-5 corridor.

Board chairman Aaron Reardon, along with board member Julia Patterson, requested that a deeper look be taken at the possible realignment of the project along I-5, lending some hope to the reality of light rail in Federal Way.

Federal Way officials estimate the city's taxpayers will have paid $240 million into the Sound Transit light rail by the time the project is finished in 2040 — regardless of whether light rail reaches the city. Since voters approved the ST2 expansion package in 2008, Sound Transit has collected approximately $12 million from Federal Way, according to data provided by the city.


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