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City to Sound Transit: Do light rail right

Sound Transit Link light rail, similar to what is shown here being tested just south of Seattle in the Sodo neighborhood, is what the Federal Way City Council would like to see in Federal Way. Members of the council will urge Sound Transit to consider this option April 24 at the Sound Transit Board of Directors meeting. - Courtesy photo
Sound Transit Link light rail, similar to what is shown here being tested just south of Seattle in the Sodo neighborhood, is what the Federal Way City Council would like to see in Federal Way. Members of the council will urge Sound Transit to consider this option April 24 at the Sound Transit Board of Directors meeting.
— image credit: Courtesy photo

The Federal Way City Council is sending the Sound Transit Board of Directors a message: Light rail service that stops short of Federal Way is not good enough.

Since the Roads and Transit Initiative (Proposition One) failed this past November, the board has busily prepared for a transit-only initiative to appear on the voter ballot. Two proposals are being discussed, but neither serves South King County as it should, city council member Jim Ferrell said. The Federal Way City Council passed a resolution April 15 that urges Sound Transit to create a plan that includes more comprehensive light rail services, especially in South King County.

“What the City of Federal Way did last night is pass a resolution that re-articulated the vision of Sound Transit,” Ferrell said. “This entire vision is about connectivity.”

With the goal of easing traffic congestion in the region as quickly and cost-efficiently as possible, Sound Transit is considering two measures to introduce for public feedback before one or both appear on a voter ballot. The plans include express bus, commuter rail and light rail services.

Existing options

The first plan proposes a 0.4 percent sales tax increase dedicated to light rail spanning from north of Lynnwood to 200th Street, just shy of the Sea-Tac airport.

The second measure would introduce a 0.5 percent sales tax increase dedicated to light rail services from north of Lynnwood to Highline Community College in Des Moines. Either plan would take 12 years to complete, compared to the 20-year plan introduced in the Roads and Transit package. Neither option would service Federal Way and South King County adequately, the city council concluded.

“This whole issue of 0.4 versus 0.5 (percent sales tax) is a false choice,” Ferrell said. “Neither would benefit the city of Federal Way.”

The Federal Way City Council’s resolution urges Sound Transit to consider a package that offers light rail connecting all urban centers from just north of Lynnwood to Tacoma, with a construction phase possibly lasting longer than 12 years and the public paying for the project with a 0.5 percent sales tax increase.

“As members of this city council, we are standing up and saying ‘If you are going to do it, do it right,’” Ferrell said.

Building the full line now is the only way to guarantee light rail will reach far and wide, Ferrell said. If Sound Transit proposes a partial rail line, the remainder may never be built because of high costs due to inflation and voter hesitation to approve another transit measure at a later date, he said.

“I would hope they (Sound Transit) would listen to the concerns of a major player in the region,” Ferrell said referencing the resolution.

Public desires:

As far as Sound Transit is concerned, it is attempting to meet the public’s needs to the best of its abilities. Following the failure of Proposition One, the organization conducted a public survey.

“It reinforced what we already sort of knew: People were really hungry for transit improvements,” Sound Transit senior planner Eric Chipps said.

As indicated by the survey, connecting Lynnwood and Tacoma by light rail, all in one measure, is a project the public feels will take too long and cost too much money at this time, Chipps said.

“What they (the board of directors) are mainly struggling with is trying to balance all these needs and put together a package that presents these things within a time frame,” Chipps said.

The board of directors will release the two plans — light rail from north of Lynnwood to 200th Street for a 0.4 percent sales tax increase, or light rail from north of Lynnwood to Highline Community College for a 0.5 percent sales tax increase — for public review and comment before deciding what will appear before voters.

“The public’s feedback is extremely important,” Chipps said.

A light rail connection from north of Lynnwood to Tacoma is not out of the question if the public indicates an overwhelming desire for this option, he said. But it will require a longer construction period and greater obligation to a sales tax increase.

Contact Jacinda Howard: jhoward@fedwaymirror.com or (253) 925-5565.

Check it out:

The Sound Transit Board of Directors meeting will take place from 1 to 4 p.m. April 24 at Union Station, 401 S. Jackson St., in Seattle. It is open to the public and comments will be taken near the start of the meeting. City council members Jim Ferrell and Jeanne Burbidge will represent Federal Way at the meeting. To learn more about this topic, visit Sound Transit’s Web site at http://future.soundtransit.org/.

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