Several Pierce County projects in $50 billion Sound Transit plan

Light rail would connect Tacoma to Sea-Tac Airport and points north by 2033 under a a 25-year spending plan Sound Transit unveiled Thursday.
Light rail would connect Tacoma to Sea-Tac Airport and points north by 2033 under a a 25-year spending plan Sound Transit unveiled Thursday. Staff file, 2013

Light rail would connect Tacoma to Sea-Tac Airport and points north by 2033 under a 25-year spending plan Sound Transit unveiled Thursday.

The proposal, which likely will be tweaked before being put before voters in November, calls for the light-rail line to be extended to Tacoma Community College by 2041.

Other Pierce County projects in the proposal, called Sound Transit 3, include:

▪ Extending the Sounder commuter train line to DuPont with an additional station in Tillicum.

▪ Improving bus service along Pacific Avenue in Tacoma.

▪ Studying the feasibility of extending commuter rail to Orting.

Billions of dollars in the project would be spread from Everett to Issaquah and Bellevue to Ballard under the proposal, which King County Executive Dow Constantine, who chairs the Sound Transit board, called “an ambitious plan for an ambitious region.”

Details of each project, including how much it would cost and the timeline for building it, were not available Thursday. Sound Transit said that information should be posted on its website by Tuesday.

If approved by voters and constructed, the light-rail network would connect 17 cities with 108 miles of track and more than 70 stations.

“In this proposal, we go big,” Constantine said. “We go big because the need is big.”

The price tag also is big: An estimated $50 billion.

Sound Transit would raise the money by raising the sales tax in Pierce, King and Snohomish counties by 0.5 percent, increasing the motor vehicle excise tax by 0.8 percent and adding 25 cents per $1,000 valuation to local property taxes.

The regional transit agency estimates the tax hikes would raise about $27 million. The remaining money would come from “other revenues,” most likely federal grants earmarked for light rail.

Planners said the proposal would cost the average adult about $200 per year.

Sound Transit now will embark on an outreach campaign to gather public input before finalizing the proposal in June.

Pierce County elected officials who sit on the Sound Transit board called the proposal a good one.

County Executive Pat McCarthy, who was instrumental in beginning the planning process for Sound Transit 3, gave the draft plan her endorsement Thursday.

“From Pierce County’s perspective, at least from this Pierce County resident’s perspective, I’m thrilled that we’re finally going to get light rail through to Pierce County,” McCarthy said.

While Tacoma has a Link light-rail line now, it serves only the Dome District and downtown.

Tacoma Mayor Marilyn Strickland also gave her support to the proposal.

Strickland, vice chairwoman of the Sound Transit board, said it is not a perfect plan but called it “damn good.” Connecting Tacoma to Seattle-Tacoma International Airport and improving bus service along Pacific Avenue “are huge things,” she said.

“I didn’t get everything I wanted. I didn’t get it as soon as I wanted,” Strickland said. “But this will be a true regional system.”

King County Councilman Dave Upthegrove of Des Moines said Sound Transit 3 includes projects across all three of Puget Sounds major counties and would promote smart land-use policies and affordable housing by encouraging developers to build homes and shopping centers near rail lines.

“This proposal fairly shares the benefits through the region,” Upthegrove said.

Some horsetrading might be in the offing in the coming months as the board works to hone the final ballot measure.

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray and Snohomish County Executive Dave Somers expressed concerns that light rail wasn’t reaching some areas of their jurisdictions as quickly as they would like.

King County Councilman Peter von Reichbauer of Federal Way said the transit agency must be clear and concise about what it intends to build and when.

“Some people in my district are worried about a bait-and-switch,” von Reichbauer said. “They want to know, not what they’re promised, but what they’re getting.”

Adam Lynn: 253-597-8644, @TNTAdam


Pierce County projects

▪ Connect Tacoma to Seattle-Tacoma International Airport and points north via light rail by 2033.

▪ Extend Tacoma’s light-rail line to Tacoma Community College by 2041.

▪ Extend the Sounder commuter line to DuPont, with a new station in Tillicum, by 2036.

▪ Improve bus lines in East Pierce County and along Pacific Avenue in Tacoma between 2019-2024.

▪ Provide money to study feasibility of extending Sounder commuter rail to Orting.

Source: Sound Transit