Last week, the Seattle Metro Chamber with partners, the Downtown Everett Association, the Everett Station District Alliance, and the Seattle Southside Chamber, sent a letter to the Sound Transit Board urging the board to make time for important engagement before voting on changes to projects, project scope, or project timelines for ST3, the set of regional light rail investments that voters approved in November 2016.
Sound Transit currently has a budget shortfall, called the affordability gap, of $7.9 billion. While $1.5 billion of the affordability gap stems from reduced revenue collection estimates, the majority of the gap is due to underestimating the cost of construction and property evaluation necessary to complete the voter approved ST3 investments.(Read the Final Report of Review and Analysis of Cost Estimating Methodology here.)
As a result, Sound Transit is contemplating realignment plans, making changes to projects, project scope, or project timelines to make up for the funding shortfall. Sound Transit Board Chair Kent Keel unveiled a draft realignment plan last week that would delay some projects between one to 21 years.
The Chamber firmly believes that the region deserves a high-quality transit system, which is why we are opposed to project delays and preemptive cost reductions. The Chamber and our partners urge the Sound Transit Board to postpone making a realignment decision in July, as currently planned, and to fulfill Sound Transit’s obligation to do its due diligence, performing additional outreach and analysis before making a decision. Before making a realignment decision, we believe Sound Transit must:
- Conduct deeper engagement with the business community and others to solicit input on the scenarios under consideration.
- Develop a new scenario that keeps the program on schedule and describes what revenue and/or capital costs savings are needed and when.
- Define a more robust process for the proposed annual program review to evaluate whether project schedules can be advanced based on new revenue, cost, and debt capacity information.
- Incorporate the recommendations of the independent cost consultant contract and lessons learned from meetings with partner agencies into the proposed realignment motion.
The Chamber and the business community supported Sound Move, Sound Transit 2, and Sound Transit 3 because we support Sound Transit’s mission and the projects included. We believe firmly that the projects approved by voters in 2016 should be delivered.
At present, the Sound Transit Board is expected to consider a realignment resolution and amendments throughout July and to adopt a final realignment plan resolution on July 22.