$50 Billion transportation plan in Seattle could add 108 miles of rail

Sound Transit Plan (via Sound Transit 3)

The Sound Transit plan (via Sound Transit 3)

Recently, a new $1.8 billion 3 mile light rail extension running from downtown north to Capitol Hill and the University of Washington opened in Seattle. And now there’s a new transportation proposal for the Emerald City and beyond. Last week, Sound Transit, the public light and commuter rail system (and rapid bus system) operating in King, Snohomish, and Pierce Counties, released a draft proposal that outlines future major possible phases of development. Dubbed Sound Transit 3, the $50 billion plan could extend light rail to Seattle neighborhoods like Ballard and West Seattle, and further out to other parts of the three counties, in cities like Everett and Issaquah.

Sound Transit Light Rail (Richard Eriksson : Flickr CC)

Sound Transit Light Rail (Richard Eriksson / Flickr CC)

But the projected timeline is expansive, with up to 75 stations proposed along 108 miles of new light rail and up to 20 rapid bus line stops in the next 25 years. “Some stations could open in the next few years, but some nearby neighborhoods will wait more than a decade for tracks,” KOMO News reports. “West Seattle won’t have a station until 2033, and Ballard’s would be completed in 2038.” The system could carry around 500,000 riders per day.

Engineers will need to examine the feasibility of the plan, including the proposed tunnel that would run from downtown Westlake underneath Seattle’s tallest hill, Queen Anne. “From a technical standpoint, West Seattle comes first because of the severe complexity of building a tunnel and six stations from Westlake Station to Uptown (Lower Queen Anne), a part of the Ballard line, transit staff say. Challenges include a second Westlake station two stories lower than the current one,” writes The Seattle Times.

Funding would come from a mix of sources: existing taxes, new taxes through 2041 (with $27 billion coming from around $400 of additional property taxes per household), federal grants, and debt.

The proposal could go on the November ballot for voters living in King, Snohomish and Pierce Counties if the Sound Transit board approves the ballot packet this June.

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