Sound Transit Adopts ‘Realignment’ Plan

The move follows 17 months of discussions and engagement with jurisdictions and stakeholders.

Sound Transit Board Chair and City of University Place Councilmember Kent Keel

Sound Transit, the regional transit system serving the Seattle and Central Puget Sound area in Washington state, said that the steep rise in real estate and construction costs plus advancing environmental review and project designs have driven up expansion costs, contributing to the affordability gap for completing projects on earlier schedules.

The realignment plan covers the next waves of Sound Transit projects, including reaching Tacoma, Everett, West Seattle and Ballard, and delivering bus rapid transit and Sounder expansions, according to Sound Transit Board Chair and City of University Place Councilmember Kent Keel. “These projects are critical for keeping people moving in the face of our population growth and for protecting our economy and environment,” he said on Aug. 5. “To succeed, we will need expanded collaboration at the local, state and national levels.”

The adopted plan reflects “estimated affordable delivery dates for each project under current revenue and cost projections,” Sound Transit reported. “However, for priority projects that face delays under current financial projections, the realignment plan also establishes more ambitious completion targets that are based on plans to intensively pursue additional financial capacity and cost reductions.”

The plan prioritizes voter-approved projects by dividing them into four tiers. Projects in the top two tiers, Sound Transit said, “will be managed under the more ambitious completion targets unless or until it becomes necessary to fall back to affordable completion dates that allow more time to generate the required revenues. Tier 3 and 4 projects will be managed under their affordable schedules unless the program affordability gap is eliminated for Tier 1 and Tier 2 projects, and then shrinks still further to allow Tier 3 and Tier 4 projects to be delivered more quickly.”

Among the project schedule updates:
• The Tier 1 West Seattle Link—SODO to Alaska Junction project was originally scheduled for delivery in 2030; under both the affordable schedule and the “more ambitious” initial target schedule, it is slated for completion in 2032.
• The Tier 1 Everett Link—Lynnwood to SW Everett (no parking) project in the North Corridor moves from delivery in 2036 to delivery in 2037, under both the affordable and the “more ambitious” initial target schedules.
• The Tier 3 Sounder extension to DuPont project moves from completion in 2036 to completion in 2045, under both the affordable and the “more ambitious” initial target schedules.

Download the realigned Sound Transit capital program for more projects and details:

The realignment plan does not affect projects already under construction, including light rail extensions to Northgate, Tacoma’s Hilltop neighborhood, Bellevue and Redmond, Federal Way and Lynnwood, as well as the Puyallup Sounder garage. Between now and 2024, Sound Transit said it is poised to open those projects on schedule, and all but Tacoma Hilltop are currently trending on or below budget.

Sound Transit’s 4.3-mile Northgate Link light rail extension is expected to open to passenger service on Oct. 2. 2021.

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