The Sound Transit Executive Committee failed on Thursday to reach agreement on realignment criteria for ST3 projects. Board members sought a set of agreed criteria for a better-tuned realignment, but in the end voted only to send a framework of possible criteria to the full Board without recommendation.
A “blunt instrument” delay of five years for all projects not currently in construction would be affordable. To maintain flexibility, early design work would generally proceed on the original ST3 timeline, but construction would take place much later to conserve revenues. But the Board is looking for a realignment process that does something smarter than simply sliding all the timelines.
Combining the core principles with some other criteria suggested by Board members, a draft list of criteria to realign the ST3 program was developed. If these principles were adopted, they would be the basis for staff to develop scenarios for affordable paths forward.
A flavor of the discussion:
- Roger Millar (Secretary of Transportation, WSDOT) and Dow Constantine (King County Executive) both expressed some skepticism about project tenure as a criterion. That’s the idea projects postponed from Sound Move or ST2 should be ranked higher because voters have been waiting longer. Millar pointed to WSDOT proposed projects that have been on a list for a long time precisely because they aren’t such a high priority.
- Claudia Balducci (King County Council Chair) argued the primary consideration should be the level of service provided to the public by the truncated or delayed system, pointing to a more fundamental rethinking than shuffling the timelines. Balducci and Millar both suggested variants on BRT or expanded regional express bus service to future planned rail destinations, particularly those where delivery may otherwise be very late.
- Joe McDermott (King County Council Vice Chair) was concerned about limiting 30 year decisions when much uncertainty remains about future finances.
- Paul Roberts (Everett City Council) and Bruce Dammeier (Pierce County Executive) both spoke for the primacy of the regional system goals.
With such varied criticisms of the criteria, the list of possible criteria was forwarded to the full Board without recommendation.
Dow Constantine introduced another motion that staff develop revenue and increased debt capacity options as part of the realignment process. Constantine spoke to possible state funds, federal grants, or a future voter approval of greater debt capacity. That motion was also forwarded to the full Board.
The Board will next meet on June 25 and it seems likely there will be extensive attempts ahead of that meeting to seek agreement.