Sound Transit announced Thursday that it will reinvent itself in the coming months to complete what Tacoma Mayor Marilyn Strickland has called the largest public-works project in the history of the Puget Sound region.
Construction is underway or beginning soon on voter-approved light-rail extensions and other transit expansions from the Sound Transit 2 program at the same time the agency is gearing up to design a slate of new projects from Sound Transit 3, said Peter Rogoff, the agency’s executive director.
“By the end of 2017, Sound Transit will be planning, designing or building 24 train and bus projects in Snohomish, King and Pierce counties,” the agency said in a news release.
Under plans approved by voters, the number of light-rail stations in the region would increase from the current 22 to 80 by 2040. Extended Sounder commuter train service and bus rapid transit lines also would be increased.
Extending Link light rail from its current terminus at Angle Lake on through Federal Way and into Tacoma by 2030 is part of the Sound Transit 3 plan.
To meet the challenges, Rogoff said, Sound Transit will move to more collaborative internal project management by creating multidisciplinary teams to shepherd them to completion. The agency also will make a big push to work better with local governments and add staff, he said.
“This is the largest leap this agency has ever taken,” Rogoff told the agency’s board. “Sound Transit is up for this challenge and will deliver.”
Challenges abound, including threats to funding at both the state and federal levels.
Amid complaints from some car owners and lawmakers, the state Legislature is considering a plan that could cost Sound Transit millions in motor vehicle excise tax money by forcing it to redo the way it values cars as part of the Sound Transit 3 plan.
And President Donald Trump’s proposed budget for the next fiscal year includes big cuts to transit.
University Place City Councilman Kent Keel broached those subjects during a question-and-answer session following Rogoff’s presentation to the board.
“If the funding changes, how would that impact the plan we have in front of us?” Keel said.
Rogoff said the agency would move ahead with its reinvention, but that some projects might be deferred.
Strickland, who serves as vice chairwoman of the Sound Transit board, encouraged Pierce County’s elected leaders Thursday to work with the agency to ensure projects are completed as efficiently as possible.
Other challenges facing Sound Transit will include procuring enough skilled contractors and trades people to actually build all the projects planned.