Dan’s report on the Senate Transportation agreement illuminated poorly understood numbers associated with potential Sound Transit 3 taxes and project budgets. In spite of his noble efforts to explain it, there is evidently quite a bit of confusion remaining.
There are two separate planning processes that both have a $15 billion figure in them, and both are expressed in Year of Expenditure (YOE) dollars, but they aren’t directly related.
The first is a tax plan. Sound Transit asked for enough authority to levy as much as $15 billion over 15 years from sales tax, property tax, and Motor Vehicle Excise Tax (MVET). Although it’s conceivable they can use the full amount in a 2016 ballot measure, it’s scaled for flexibility both in the overall package size and in the mix of taxes, so that the Board can optimize chances of a successful vote.
The second is a 15-year project list and budget. The Board used a $15 billion capital program as an example, chosen somewhat arbitrarily from the size of Sound Transit 2. Because any program would include lots of bonds, a given 15-year tax package size funds a larger capital program. ST spokesman Geoff Patrick gave the example that $9 billion of taxes funds $15 billion of projects.
To match these billions to project scope, I’ve broken out tax revenues into subareas and listed some likely project priorities for each area. Both the revenue breakdowns and the project costs are guesses piled on assumptions, drawn from estimates, based on historical data which may not predict the future. (See all those assumptions here). But these figures make the best of the publicly available data.
The results are in the table below. All figures are in billions of 2014 dollars and include leftover capacity from ST1 and 2. I’ve also listed some likely subarea priorities with price tags from long-range plan studies. These estimates are very rough, and nowhere near official, so I wouldn’t get hung up on $100m here and there. Consider also that some projects will likely win significant federal grants, not included here. North King projects have historically done well in that process, and I’ve heard rumors that Snohomish County Link will also score well under federal formulas.
|Subarea||ST2- Sized||Full Senate Authority||Full House Authority||Key Projects|
|Snohomish||$1.6||$1.9||$2.5||LRT Lynnwood to Everett via I-5: $2.2
via Paine Field: $3.4
|South King||$1.6||$1.9||$2.6||S.200th to FWTC via SR-99: $1.8|
|Pierce||$2.1||$2.5||$3.3||FWTC to Tacoma Dome via I-5: $1.9
via SR99: $2.9
Tacoma Link to TCC: $0.6
|East King||$2.6||$3.2||$4.3||Link to DT Redmond: $0.8
Link, Totem Lake-Issaquah: $2.7
BRT, I-405: $1.7
BRT, UW-Kirkland: $0.5
|North King||$3.1||$3.8||$5.1||Ballard/UW: $1.7
Ballard/DT via Interbay: $2.8
2nd Downtown tunnel: $1.1?
Alaska Junction/Stadium: $2.0-2.5?
So what does the Senate proposal mean for all this? First, it eliminates some of the more aggressive construction plans. Second, but cutting property tax and MVET authority, it almost inevitability switches the burden onto sales tax.
For more discussion on the alternatives in the right column, see the original post on the subject.