Sound Transit 3 plan calls for second tunnel in downtown Seattle, 108 miles of light rail

ByShannon J. Cortes

Mar 24, 2016

Thursday afternoon, the Sound Transit 3 (ST3) was fully unveiled at a transit agency board meeting. If approved, it could revolutionize light rail transportation throughout the Puget Sound region.

The big announcement at the heart of the plan would be a second downtown transit tunnel that would create two distinct spines from which light rail could travel to surrounding areas. One spine would start in West Seattle and go north to Everett while the other would start in Tacoma and go all the way to Ballard. The two lines would intersect at Westlake Station.

In total, there would be 108 miles of track with 75 light rail stations in 17 cities aiming to serve around 500,000 passengers per day. According to Sound Transit CEO Peter Rogoff, the system would be comparable to Bay Area Rapid Transit or the Washington, DC Metro rail system.

While the news is sure to generate excitement among commuters and those looking for better alternatives to all-day traffic, there is bad news. All of this will take a long time. West Seattle station is not expected to open until 2033 and Ballard station is not expected to open until 2038.

Additionally, the Ballard-UW line that many had hoped to see was not included in the draft plan. However, it will be considered as part of a study.

Downtown Redmond could end up being the fastest beneficiary of the plan with a station set to open in 2028. Bellevue College, Issaquah and Everett are all eyeing 2041. While those years seem distant, the truth is the area would have must have been making these plans decades ago and better to start now than to wait any longer.

Of course, there is the issue of the bill. The 25-year ST3 project will require a total cost of $50 billion, including $27 billion in new taxes through 2041.

Public comment is expected in April, but until then the debate is set to heat up around the potential for true light rail transit in and around Seattle.
· Sound Transit’s $50 billion proposal would boost light rail across the region [ST]