By a 16-2 margin, the Sound Transit board voted today to put a $17 billion, 15-year Phase II expansion package on the ballot this fall. King County Executive Ron Sims and Councilmember Pete von Reichbauer voted no, while state DOT director Paula Hammond proved earlier rumors wrong, voting yes after pushing through a last minute amendment to front-load expanded bus service.
The package expands light rail north to Lynnwood, south to Federal Way and east to Redmond, and includes a 25% expansion of ST express bus service and a 65% expansion of Sounder commuter rail, along with street car connectors on Capitol Hill and in Tacoma. All this would be paid for with a .5% increase in the sales tax; that’ll cost you about $69 per year on average, roughly equivalent to the cost of a single tank of gas. (Personally, I wish ST had a less regressive revenue source at its disposal, but it doesn’t, and so our choice at the moment is to build the infrastructure we need with the taxing authority we have, or build nothing at all. That’s reality.)
During their frequent appearances on my radio show, I routinely locked horns with The Stranger’s Erica Barnett and Josh Feit over last year’s “Roads & Transit” package. They opposed Prop 1, arguing that Sound Transit would come back the next year with a better package, sans roads. I thought they were being politically naive, and argued that the powers that be would never allow ST to come back with a transit-only package in 2008, and would be picked apart by the “governance reform” vultures well before 2009.
I am not at all unhappy to admit that they were right and I was wrong.