Federal Way’s city council has passed a resolution urging Sound Transit to build light rail all the way to the city rather than curtailing the line due to budgetary constraints brought on by the recession. Federal Way representatives will be at a Sound Transit board meeting later today to discuss the resolution.
Light rail to Federal Way was part of the Sound Transit 2 plan, which was approved by voters in 2008 before the full impacts of the recession on tax receipts was known. According to Sound Transit’s interim CEO, the agency cannot afford to build light rail to Federal Way unless all other South King County projects are canceled and, even then, rail will be come more than a decade behind the schedule outlined in ST2.
Federal Way’s resolution says the city is “reviewing legal options,” and suggests the agency could curtail costs by changing the alignment or borrowing money from Pierce County, both unlikely to change the fundamentals. It also asks Sound Transit to consider entirely eliminating sub-area equity which ensures that money raised in a particular community (i.e. South King County) says in that community. Since South King has been particularly hard hit by the recession, it is facing the deepest cuts of any sub-area. Repealing the policy is a remote possibility that would likely be opposed by cities like Seattle and Bellevue who would only stand to lose money now and in the future to less urban cities.
My personal thoughts on this resolution and the rhetoric are complex. Federal Way is fighting hard for light rail and in a way the resolution brought a smile to my face. This moment may turn people against ST on the margins (claims of “broken promises”), but it to me shows that cities may be lobbying the state for ST3 funding authority sooner than later. I wonder if my read is too optimistic.
We’ll see how far the rhetoric against ST from Federal Way goes. In my view, the city has a right to be disappointed and upset, but their remedies aren’t realistic and a lawsuit would not be helpful nor would it prevail. Right now, this is looks like posturing and political pressure that’s perhaps healthy.