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King County leaders fear 'financial blow' to transit

King County leaders expressed their concerns over a proposed U.S. House of Representatives bill, which the county believes "would deliver yet another financial blow to transit service throughout the region."

The U.S. House Surface Transportation Authorization bill would end "long-standing dedicated funding for the nation's transit agencies." If approved by Congress, the bill will "strip all guaranteed transit funding from the Federal Highway Trust Fund for the first time in three decades."

According to the county, King County Metro Transit and Sound Transit would be looking at yet another round of disastrous budgets if this bill passes.

"This House bill is alarming because it puts at risk a critical source of predictable revenue that transit agencies have counted on year after year," said Metro General Manager Kevin Desmond. "For Metro alone, as much as $70 million in annual revenues would be at risk, worsening our financial hole at a time when demand for transit service is rising."

The county indicates the cuts would mean reduction in service hours — a fight Metro went through just last summer. In order to save bus service hours, the county approved an additional $20 on car tab fees. With the possibility of these cuts looming, that fight may have been all for naught. On top of the reduction in service hours, the county warns that Metro's "ability to do everything from preserving service to buying new buses" could "dramatically erode."

Joni Earl, CEO of Sound Transit, said the proposed bill would threaten Sound Transit's ability to operate throughout the region and complete many upcoming construction projects, such as Sound Transit 2, which would extend light rail into Federal Way.

"The House bill calls into question some key assumptions built into our capital plan in both the short and long term," Earl said. "Our ability to delver on key projects, whether it's extensions to the University of Washington, Bellevue and Redmond, Lynnwood, Federal Way or Tacoma Link, will be in question if our federal partner becomes less reliable. It is crucial that our congressional delegation work to defeat this bill."

The county also warns that Community Transit, Pierce Transit and Kitsap Transit would be negatively impacted by the proposed legislation. For more information on the bill, visit www.kingcounty.gov.

 

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