As a daily transit rider I feel a strong responsibility to ensure that the decisions we make on the Sound Transit board will be in the best interests of our current and future riders. To that end, I am incredibly proud of the work that our staff and board have accomplished with our updated Sound Transit 3 plan. Through rigorous financial analysis from both within the agency and from leading financial experts, we’ve been able to modestly increase the bonding capacity by approximately 8 percent, or $4 billion. We’ve leveraged that bonding capacity to respond to the public request to deliver more projects, and to deliver projects more quickly.
When we asked the public for feedback, we heard many things, including that the draft plan took too long to deliver important projects, especially the added lines to Ballard and West Seattle. And we heard that infill stations like the 130th St. and Graham St. stations needed to be permanent, not provisional, and needed to be delivered faster. With that feedback, here is how we are going to use this $4 billion in bonding capacity to improve upon the Sound Transit 3 draft plan.
First, additional funding allows us to speed up the delivery of new lines to Ballard and West Seattle. The Ballard line, originally scheduled for delivery in 22 years, will now be completed in 19 years. The West Seattle line, originally expected in 17 years, is now scheduled for completion in 14 years. We’re building the Graham St., Boeing Access Road, and 130th St. stations as part of the ST3 plan in year 15. We’ve also increased funding in early years to help Ballard, Capitol/First Hill, and West Seattle bus riders have more frequent and reliable bus service.
In addition to the projects and timelines released today, Sound Transit’s staff and board are still working on important policy language to be included in the final plan including statements and principles on transit oriented development, project delivery, and station access amongst other issues. In collaboration with my colleagues on the City Council, I worked to pass a resolution earlier this week which outlined Seattle’s project and policy priorities for ST3 and included a commitment from the city of Seattle to continue to work with Sound Transit on ways we can collaborate on permitting, alignment/station location preferences, and project delivery.
I also want to be clear that while the size of this package is increasing from $50 billion to $54 billion, the tax burden is unchanged. This additional funding does not come from new taxes, but rather from improved financial leveraging of Sound Transit’s debt capacity. The recently completed financial work confirmed the feasibility of moving up and modestly increasing the issuance of bonds while remaining fully consistent with the agency’s conservative debt policies, maintaining the agency’s current high ratings and minimizing borrowing costs to taxpayers. The updated results have been verified by three separate financial teams; Sound Transit’s investment banking team, PB Consulting, and Ben Porter & Associates.
Sound Transit 3 will dramatically improve mobility across our region and help us keep up with our rapid population and employment growth. With these critical investments, I believe that the Sound Transit 3 plan represents a huge opportunity to expand access to reliable, high speed transit, while creating tens of thousands of jobs and making our region more affordable. These investments will open doors of opportunity, improve equity, and advance regional connectivity for generations to come.