During institutional comment on Sound Transit 3, Seattle strongly asked for “early wins” that would show near-term value for Sound Transit 3. The intent of the request seems to be twofold: to chip away at today’s myriad transportation needs and also to incentivize additional ‘yes’ votes on the eventual ballot measure. Yesterday at the Sound Transit Board, Planning, Environment, and Project Development (PEPD) Director Ric Ilgenfritz and PEPD Development Manager Karen Kitsis briefed boardmembers on the types of projects Sound Transit would be willing and/or able to expedite. Staff cautioned the Board that given the likely length of the package, early spending disproportionately reduces later spending due to inflation, so care must be taken to strike a balance between showing quick value to the public and delivering the full investment promised at the ballot. So what could be on the table?
“Pre-rail” improvements. Those within the advocacy community worried about ST3 funds being shortsightedly used for new bus operations can likely breathe easy, as staff stressed that any projects must fit within Sound Transit’s statutory mission of delivering high capacity transit. So while we won’t see Sound Transit making Prop 1-style frequency additions to Metro for RapidRide C and D, Sound Transit did indicate a willingness to pay for capital improvements to bus corridors selected for rail. For Ballard and West Seattle, for example, this could include mean an ST3 contribiution towards extending and improving bus lanes in Interbay or on the Waterfront, adding better transit signal priority (TSP) for Rapid Ride, and other rechannelization type efforts.
Infill stations. Staff noted that the infill stations on the Candidate Project list are all within ST2 corridors, enabling their construction prior to any further ST3 Link extensions. Potential locations include Graham Street, Boeing Access Road, N 130th St, and SW 220th St in Lynnwood. Graham and BAR could be finished in just a few years, and 130th and/or 220th could open on Day 1 of Lynnwood Link in 2023. But again, the Board would have to explicitly prioritize them.
Expedited BRT Projects. There are a number of bus-based improvements ST could expedite. SR 522 BRT could be scheduled early to ensure it opens at the same time as 145th Street Station, ST could pay for shoulder-hardening on I-5 and I-405 to allow more transit access, and I-405 BRT could be phased with some early projects.
Access improvements. Staff indicated that many of the small capital projects in the Candidate Project List could be completed early, including new parking garages, bike parking expansions, and Sounder platform extensions.
Technology improvements. This category could include full real-time arrival info at all Central Link stations (currently unfunded), mobile ticketing, NFC payment, and/or expediting the development of ORCA 2.