Sound Transit board unanimously approves ST3 updates

As the My Ballard team reported last week, many readers are aware of the updated ST3 plan that may bring, among many other things, grade separated light rail to Ballard three years earlier than originally planned.

This morning, the Sound Transit board officially and unanimously approved the updated ST3 plan that will be on the ballot this November.

“The vote you’re taking today is…truly momentous,” Dow Constantine, King County executive and chair of the Sound Transit board, told board members this morning. “You are setting down the template for the growth and development of this region for the next several generations.”

After listening to feedback from about 35,000 surveys, updates were made to the ST3 plan which includes bumping up Ballard’s light rail line to open in 2035 as opposed to the originally planned 2038.

Sound Transit CEO Peter Rogoff confirms that it might be possible to speed up the timeline even more with a series of process changes which include favoring a design/build contract instead of a design/bid/build contract, having senior staff meet with stakeholders first to address concerns upfront, and finally, having local municipalities make zoning changes to allow light rail sooner.

To deliver the light rail options in the tighter time frame, Sound Transit believes that the overall cost of the project will increase by $4 billion.

Despite the timeline victories won in the updated plan, according to The Stranger, many transit advocates are pushing for a tunnel rather than a bridge to carry light rail to Ballard.

According to The Stranger report, the tunnel option would be significantly more expensive by $450 million.

Advocacy group Seattle Subway is also still pushing for a light rail line from Ballard to UW that, they say, could potentially be funded by unexpected revenue or money leftover from other projects.

“We need to be both prudent and scrappy and plan for success,” Seattle Subway’s political director Jonathan Hopkins told the Sound Transit board this morning.

According to The Stranger, the Sound Transit board showed little excitement for either changes but advocated have another three weeks to push the ideas forward.

The Sound Transit board will take its final vote to send ST3 to the November ballot on June 23.

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