We held off on writing about yesterday’s East Link news to get some more information and more fully understand the process – and I’m glad we did, because there’s more to it.
The term sheet (.doc) referred to in pieces published yesterday is positive, but it’s not the final agreement – it’s more of a mutually agreed upon starting place for building an agreement. WSDOT and Sound Transit are agreeing that these terms are good enough to use when crafting a more lengthy, complex “umbrella agreement” later in the year. This umbrella agreement will be much more detailed, potentially covering exact dates for project delivery, particular responsibilities assigned to each agency, and more.
The term sheet, though, lets us in the public know that WSDOT has pretty much accepted that they’re not going to get actual cash from Sound Transit for the reversible express lanes, despite Speaker Chopp’s earlier demands. This is in line with what we predicted before – the R8A work Sound Transit is doing to add HOV lanes to I-90 constitutes a benefit to the state, a benefit, it turns out, that outweighs the reversible lanes’ value!
Aside from that, there are two things I find really interesting about this term sheet.
First, it’s temporary. It will last 40 years after the start of East Link revenue service, but the umbrella agreement will provide for a renewal contract extending that for an additional 35 years. This ensures the agreement won’t have to be renegotiated until 2095. Hopefully light rail will have its own bridge by then, otherwise I’m going to have to live to 114 so I can write about it.
Second, this removes all responsibility from WSDOT for additional R8A funding past their already spent or programmed money. That bodes well for East Link’s schedule, as Sound Transit is pretty good about funding things when they say they will. Sound Transit just moved forward with the next step of R8A, as well.
This should be representative of the final agreement, but don’t throw a party yet. There are a lot of costs here, from the airspace lease to bridge maintenance, and they could go up before the umbrella agreement is complete and signed – that said, this is good news.