I’d be a lot more wiling to go along with this if I thought East King County would return the favor if the situation were reversed.
This afternoon, the Sound Transit board’s agenda features a resolution selecting the preferred Eastside alignment for Link light rail, which includes a tunnel under downtown Bellevue. However, the tunnel would cost $329 million more than the amount allocated for this portion of the project when voters passed the ST2 extension in 2008. To cover that cost, the City of Bellevue has pledged to chip in $180 million and that leaves—depending upon various methods to slice and dice the shortfall—$138 to $150 million unpaid. Although Sound Transit staff have reportedly considered various options (selling real estate, shrinking the scope of the Eastide alignment, and delaying the project to save money on bonding), those weren’t the chief idea presented to regional leaders yesterday. Several sources say that Sound Transit staff specifically asked leaders in the North King sub-area cities (again, mostly Seattle) to contribute $150 million to support the East Link tunnel.
Of course the reason we have sub areas in the first place is that East and South King County (or at least their ST representatives) were opposed to the thought of having to pay for any of Seattle’s light rail. When we were building light rail in Seattle, we had to balance it out with East Side bus routes and park and rides. We had to build much of it at grade. We had to cut the Graham Street Station from the final route. So, no, if we have any money left over, I think a Graham Street Station and putting the money into bus service lost if King County cuts routes would be a better way to go.
Don’t get me wrong. I’ve used the East Side buses and park and rides, and I think they have value. Also, I’d like to have good rail on the East Side. I don’t even mind paying for it as a Seattle person. Logically, with capital intensive projects like light rail sometimes the money should flow to Seattle and sometimes it should flow out of it. What I object to is that the money only seems to go one way.
And one more thing; during the last Seattle budget, Bellevue and other East Side people told me how awful it was that Seattle was raising parking meter rates. They were going to steal away business with their cheap parking and out compete Seattle. Now they want to use Seattle’s healthy budget to pay for rail on the East Side!