A 25% percent drop in expected tax revenue will force Sound Transit to re-develop some of its 15 year plan that voters approved in 2008, agency CEO Joni Earl told the board today. She said that procedures that voters also approved meant the agency must identify contingency plans if revenue is 5% or more less than expected.
“All elements of ST2 program no longer affordable within the original 15-year timeframe,” read a slideshow given to the board. The detailed budget proposal is available online.
Northgate Slips to 2021
University Link is on schedule and isn’t affected by the recent news, but the CEO’s budget pushes back the start of Northgate service a year, to 2021, “due to design and construction challenges.”
Additionally Earl told the board that the extension from Northgate to Lynnwood has been identified as risky. It may need to be changed if the recession is even worse than the July forecast, and much of the project’s details are unknown since little has been done on the extension so far.
North King County (mostly Seattle) had the most mild drop in revenue forecasts. It is “only” facing a 16% shortfall, with the rest of the system facing a 28% shortfall.
South Link to Federal Way Reconsidered
South King County will be particularly hard hit, she said, because of a near 31% revenue shortfall. Link light rail’s extension from S. 200th St to S. 272nd in North Federal Way cannot be completed on schedule because of the drain, according to agency officials.
The agency will not recommend any options for that corridor to the board but instead will recommend a $2.5 million study to evaluate the various options to provide high-capacity transit to South King along the corridor.
All options are on the table, officials said. It seems likely that South Link will be terminated further north than expected, similar to Central Link terminating at SeaTac Airport instead of the originally planned S. 200th St station. The line could also be phased later than planned, like the University Link project currently under construction and expected to open 10 years behind the 1996 schedule. Under any option, South Link will undergo significant changes from what voters approved in 2008.
More after the jump…
The study will also evaluate the effect of any changes on extending the line further south to Tacoma, which Pierce County officials have openly acknowledged they want in an ST3 package. Right of way purchases for that planned extension will also be put off in the CEO’s budget.
The agency will still pursue an accelerated S. 200th St Station construction schedule in the CEO’s budget, hoping to move it up from the planned 2020 opening date. The station could be funded with grants because its planning is so far along.
East Link Risks from City, not Recession
A variety of projects in other areas are expected to be completed on schedule, but are identified as having cost and schedule risks. East Link has schedule risks unrelated to the recession, officials said, because alignment identification and design is taking longer than planned. The Bellevue city council has asked ST to build a tunnel if the city agrees to help with costs, but has also been stuck on pursuing a South Bellevue alignment the board finds uncompelling.
The BNSF corridor project that could have built a rail corridor with a partnership will be suspended entirely in the CEO’s budget. The fallback of 405 Bus Rapid Transit service will also be suspended, and will probably not materialize. The Bothell transit center is also canceled. And preliminary engineering from Overlake (Microsoft) to Downtown Redmond will be slowed.
Pierce and Snohomish See Limited Changes
While Pierce and Snohomish subareas are expected to have significant revenue shortfalls, they had initially been budgeted a comfortable surplus to defray costs for future extensions. Though the planned surpluses are gone, the two subareas are facing less perilous cuts.
Still, extending the Sounder platforms for an extra train car will be suspended in the CEO’s budget and likely won’t be considered until an ST3 package is approved by voters well into the future. And four extra Sounder trips will come online a year later than expected. The CEO would have Tacoma Link riders pay a $1 fare starting next year for the currently free system, but extensions of that line would begin the alternatives analysis process.
ST Express Bus service will be implemented slower than expected, but agency officials say that the “demand isn’t there,” but 17,000 more service hours will still be added. Additionally, five routes with “marginal” or “unsatisfactory” performance will see cuts in 2011 and “scheduling and operating efficiency” will save money on eight others.
Additionally, the agency has identified $112 million in savings in other areas, such as cuts in agency administration and ST3 planning, which was over-budgeted according to Earl. She stressed that no maintenance will be put off.
The agency plans to spend $543 million constructing light rail in 2011. The board will work in the coming months to identify the final budget, and is expected to approve one in December. The agency could have proposed a simpler 2011 budget and put off hanging capital problems until later, agency officials said, but chose to be proactive and bring the issues to the board now.
Correction: An earlier version of this post implied that Northgate was “on schedule.” It has, in fact, been delayed a year in the CEO’s budget.