Don’t expect that Sound Transit train from Seattle to Olympia to pull into the station any time soon.
Geography and the way rail track is built in the South Sound leaves the prospect of a train “eons away,” Olympia Rep. Sam Hunt said. But Hunt and other lawmakers want to let Thurston County voters consider whether to join Sound Transit.
Aside from any future rail projects, proponents say extending the agency’s boundaries to all or part of Thurston County could improve bus service north, which Sound Transit now partners with Intercity Transit to provide. Thurston Democrats Hunt and Sen. Karen Fraser are pushing bills with support from Republican Sens. Randi Becker and Curtis King, chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee.
Becker, an Eatonville resident and self-professed “Sounder fan” — the commuter train she has ridden north from Puyallup, not the soccer team — would like to see a train to the area one day. She and Hunt say lawmakers should take the long view.
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In the shorter term, lawmakers are considering letting Sound Transit put a new package before voters as soon as November 2016.
The agency hasn’t settled on details of spending, but a plan on the same scale and timetable as the last one could allow for light rail to Tacoma by around 2031, the agency says.
For now, commuter trains run as far south as Lakewood while the region’s main light-rail line extends only as far south as the Sea-Tac Airport. Sound Transit has authority to extend light rail to the north side of Federal Way, but the proceeds from taxes voters approved in 2008 are expected to take it only as far as Highline Community College by 2023.
It’s all funded by a sales tax of nine-tenths of a cent on every dollar spent in the region, plus a 0.3 percent tax on vehicles, all of which voters in parts of King, Snohomish and Pierce counties have imposed on themselves.
The agency’s proposal, being led through the House by Rep. Jake Fey, D-Tacoma, would let it seek voter approval for an extra half-cent sales tax for a total of 1.4 cents per dollar, plus an extra 0.8 percent motor-vehicle excise tax and a new property tax of 25 cents per $1,000 assessed value.
The House Transportation Committee approved Fey’s bill Monday over some opposition from Republicans.