Traffic

Sound Transit sees way to speed up getting light rail to Tacoma

Sound Transit CEO Peter Rogoff said the agency's financial advisers have identified $4 billion in extra bond capacity, which would allow it to build several projects sooner, should voters approve tax increases in November.
Sound Transit CEO Peter Rogoff said the agency's financial advisers have identified $4 billion in extra bond capacity, which would allow it to build several projects sooner, should voters approve tax increases in November. dmontesino@thenewstribune.com

Sound Transit officials said Thursday they believe increased bonding capacity will allow them to speed up delivery of enhanced transit projects, including light rail to Tacoma, under the so-called Sound Transit 3 proposal.

CEO Peter Rogoff said the agency's financial advisers have identified $4 billion in extra capacity, which would allow it to build several projects sooner, should voters approve tax increases in November.

That includes getting light rail from Federal Way to Tacoma by 2030, three years sooner than previously estimated.

Light rail services to Tacoma Community College could be delivered by 2039, two years earlier than first envisioned.

Residents and government officials who participated in a public-input process this spring complained that timelines for delivery were too long, Rogoff said.

“The one thing we heard everywhere we went was, ‘Speed up the projects,’ ” he said.

Light rail to Everett, Ballard and West Seattle would be speeded up as well.

Pierce County Executive Pat McCarthy, also a Sound Transit board member, said she was pleased the schedules could be expedited.

“Pierce County has been hungry for light rail for a long time,” McCarthy said. “Pierce County wants more of it and wants it sooner.”

An analysis finished recently showed that debt taken on for the Sound Transit 2 package, approved by voters in 2008, will begin to expire before new debt proposed for Sound Transit 3 ramps up, freeing up borrowing capacity, Rogoff said.

“Sound Transit 2 debt tails off before ST3 debt spikes up,” he said.

The new bonding capacity would not necessitate an increase to the additional taxes already proposed to pay for ST3 projects, Rogoff said.

Voters are being asked to approve new sales, property and motor vehicle excise taxes to pay for ST3 projects.

Adam Lynn: 253-597-8644, @TNTAdam

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