Jim Merritt has said he believes he could get Sound Transit’s light rail line to Tacoma in five years if he’s elected mayor, not the the 13 the agency predicts.
It’s a claim that Merritt, a second-time mayoral candidate, made in an interview with Q13 Fox that aired this week and on his campaign website.
“It’s a matter of how they bond the project. I want to make certain that Link light rail gets (from Tacoma) to the Seattle-Tacoma airport not in 13 to 15 years, but in five,” he told Q13.
Here’s what appears on his website: “As Mayor, I believe with my advocacy on the Sound Transit board, we can connect to the airport in 5 years. This will give us a huge advantage over Seattle to attract good jobs and smart development.”
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Merritt’s time line is not going to happen, according to Sound Transit.
“A five-year time line for extending light rail to Tacoma is not possible or realistic,” agency spokeswoman Kimberly Reason said in an email. “Sound Transit’s more than two decades of project-development experience tell us that it takes 15 or more years to develop a project, from alternatives development through environmental review, final design, construction, testing and commissioning, and service start.”
In November, a majority of voters in Sound Transit’s three-county taxing area approved a $54 billion transit package called Sound Transit 3. The package would result in a 108-mile light-rail network from Everett to Tacoma, Ballard to Bellevue. Pierce County voters said no, but the measure passed with majority approval in King and Snohomish counties.
Connecting Tacoma to the airport and onto Seattle by 2030 is a part of the Sound Transit 3 package, Reason said.
Merritt, who’s worked for decades as an architect, admitted he hasn’t spoken with anyone at Sound Transit and doesn’t have any insider knowledge about the project.
If elected mayor, he would serve as a member of the Sound Transit board. In that capacity, Merrit said, he would push to prioritize Tacoma’s light rail project. He said his experience working on other transit projects would be an asset.
“My experience has been involved in lots of very large projects and quite a number of transit projects, so I certainly understand the pieces involved in this, but I have not looked in detail at all the different components,” he said Thursday. “I just feel that we could make it happen sooner just by efficiencies, good thinking, collaboration and figuring out all the pieces.”
Sound Transit officials have said they’ll work with the city to try to cut down the time line.
That could include studying fewer route alignments, identifying a preferred route early and fast-tracking permitting where possible.
Still, five years is not feasible, they said.
Merritt said five years remains his goal.
“I don’t want to be presumptuous one way or another,” he told The News Tribune. “If there are things that are insurmountable, I would like to know that and tell people about that upfront.”