Central Link Light Rail update – Feb 16th, 2008

Here is a visual assessment for February 16, 2008 on the Central segment of Link Light Rail.

Vehicle Count:

16 of 35 vehicles are on the O&M property.
Order for additional LRV’s should be coming up the end of the year for University Link.

Track Installation:

Trackwork is complete from Pine Street Station to the Airport Expressway.
The rest is dependent on the Port of Seattle work on the new Expressway road construction to Sea-Tac Airport which is slated to open in Spring 2008. The SR 518 Sea-Tac Airport to I-5/I-405 Interchange Project improves existing mobility and safety and accommodates projected airport traffic by adding a third eastbound lane on SR 518 between the North Airport Expressway and the I-5/I-405 Interchange. This is slated to open in Fall 2009.

Overhead Contact System (OCS):

Overhead Contact poles are installed from Tukwila International Blvd. Station to Mt. Baker Station. Support arms for the wire are being installed from SR-599 to MLK Way.
Unknown status within Beacon Hill Tunnel.
Powered tests is in operation between the O&M and Pine Street Tunnel. Tunnel testing is only on weekends and weeknights.

Signal System:

95% of the signaling is up and running though testing is required between Beacon Hill Tunnel and Tukwila Station but from a visual standpoint, they were all be a few lit up amber “hold”

All grade crossings are installed and operational. Royal Brougham is activated only during tunnel testing at this time.

Beacon Hill Tunnel:

No update on the progress but it has been about an month. I would expect the punch through sometime in the next week or so judging by the sudden influx on equipment around the site now (Big cranes) and flatbeds around the work site.


New signs are being installed at Westlake Center Station today.
Westlake, University, Pioneer Square, International District, Stadium, Lander, and Henderson Street Stations are complete and ready for Link service.
Beacon Hill, Mt. Baker, Columbia City, Othello, Tukwila International Blvd, and Sea-Tac Airport are still under construction.

Transit Oriented Development (TOD):

Most noticeable is the remodeling of several apartments near the Tukwila International Blvd Station site and all up and down Martin Luther King Jr. Way. Low-income housing is in place instead of the old “projects” that was common from Rainier Avenue to Alaska Street. I’ve went to a couple of showings of these homes and they are very nice though some of the models were a bit cramped but that is what your getting for the new urban development. If Portland or Charlotte is any heads up, bigger condos and such will go up soon enough if the demand is there.

That’s all for now, but do you want more? Want to see the construction up close and personal on a guided tour of Link? Ride the Sound Transit Lunch Bus on one of their plush MCI D4500 Commuter Coaches. Reclining seats, guest speakers and enjoy excellent, excellent, local food at a select location. Ask questions, be heard, and enjoy what is coming to you in 16 months from now!

SB 6772

I don’t even like talking about this subject, mostly because I feel like SB 6772 is a plot by the areas outside of the central Puget Sound to get out of paying for the state’s road obligations in that area, but the Sound Transit Board made a statement about the bill, and I got a hold of it via a state representative, and I thought I would forward it on to you.

Financing: One of the major findings of the Regional Transportation Commission and Blue Ribbon Commission reports – that there is not sufficient funding in the system – is not addressed in SB 6772. The revenue options are limited to those that exist today for Sound Transit and the Regional Transportation Investment District, with the exception of tolling revenue, which has been removed. In addition, the state constitutional limits on debt capacity mean that by combining roads and transit into one entity, the overall capacity of the new entity to issue debt for transportation becomes limited.

Delay: With the Legislature’s leadership, the region is making progress in delivering transportation investments through the Nickel Package and the Transportation Partnership Act. And, Sound Transit is completing the regional high capacity transportation system approved by the voters in 1996. In fact, we will open the Central Link light rail system from downtown Seattle the airport in 2009, and we will start construction on the next extension of light rail to the University of Washington. An unintended consequence under the new governance structure proposed in SB 6772 is the timeframe to get a roads and transit plan to the voters. While theoretically the new entity could go to voters in 2009, it could also take several years since the plan would have to comply with required environmental and planning reviews. The Regional Transportation Investment District took about five years to get consensus on a package to present to the voters. With both roads and transit to prioritize and balance – with the same amount of revenue – it could take a new entity even longer. Inflation alone is a huge cost of delay.

Federal Partnership: With the strong support of our congressional delegation and the Federal Transit Administration (FTA), Sound Transit has been very successful in attracting federal funds for this region’s light rail system, dollars that would otherwise not be spent in the Puget Sound. Right now, we are negotiating with the FTA for a $750 million grant for the University Link light rail project. The possibility of a governance change could unintentionally undermine the federal government’s confidence in the agency’s commitment to provide the local matching funds for the grant. In addition, the uncertainties associated with the staffing and operations of the new entity could undermine their confidence that our technical capability and capacity is maintained to deliver the light rail system and the rest of the transit services we currently provide. Both of these issues are threshold requirements for the federal grant.

Representation/Balance of Power: Currently, each member of the Sound Transit Board represents about 145,000 citizens, and a single subarea or county can not dominate the Board’s regional decision-making. The directly-elected members in the six districts authorized by SB 6772 would each represent 433,000 citizens, and King County could dominate the decision-making. Attached is a graphic that helps illustrate this point. In addition, the governance structure proposed in SB 6772 would eliminate the local transit board representation on the Sound Transit Board. Eliminating this feature undermines coordination and collaboration with local transit projects and services.

Land Use: This proposal does not address land use authority and permitting issues, which often delay projects and increase costs. As the primary capital construction agency in the Puget Sound region, outside of WSDOT, permitting issues, mitigation demands and differing requirements among jurisdictions, impact our ability to efficiently implement new transportation projects. A major benefit of Sound Transit’s federated Board structure is that the relationships and common interests of the elected officials facilitates dialogue and resolution of issues with our jurisdictional partners. Without changes to assist the land use and permitting concerns, we believe SB 6772 could have the unintentional impact of making delivery of projects harder.

Accountability: By statute, the State convenes an Expert Review Panel to review Sound Transit’s planning and financing methodologies and assumptions, and our work must be certified by the Puget Sound Regional Council (PSRC) as conforming to the region’s long-term transportation plans. SB 6772 removes the requirements for an Expert Review Panel and PSRC consistency review. Sound Transit believes review of our work by independent outside experts has been a good accountability measure for the region, and that consistency with the regional plan should be a pre-requisite for any transportation investment plan. Likewise, sub-area equity is the primary tool Sound Transit has for ensuring voters receive the transportation benefits they have approved at the ballot box. SB 6772 eliminates all three accountability measures.

Voter confidence: The Board is concerned with the provision in SB 6772 that would allow the new governing body to change any aspect of a voter-approved plan with two-thirds vote of the ten voting members. This broad authority would seem to undermine voter confidence.

Sound Transit has over ten years of experience in delivering high quality capital projects in Pierce, King and Snohomish counties. We have doubled our ridership in the last five years and are poised to open Central Link next year. We hope legislators will draw on that experience when considering this bill. The Board is open to a discussion and fully supports efforts to make the delivery of transportation projects and services easier, faster, and more efficient while not jeopardizing current plans and services.

Thank you for the opportunity to express our concerns. The Board appreciates the opportunity to work with the Committee and the Legislature on these important issues.

Bush does like Sound Transit however

$100 million in President’s budget moves University Link toward groundbreaking this year

February 04, 2008


In its strongest endorsement to date of Sound Transit’s University Link light rail project, the Bush administration today included $100 million for the project in his proposed FY 2009 budget. The 3.2-mile underground light rail extension from downtown Seattle to the University of Washington has the Federal Transit Administration’s highest rating for proposed transit projects in the nation.

Sound Transit will start building University Link this year with a $750 million Federal Full Funding Grant Agreement (FFGA). The FTA is scheduled to make a final decision on the FFGA by late summer or early fall. When built, the project will mean faster travel times for commuters and higher ridership in the light rail system.

“I’m pleased to see the President recognizes the benefits this bold project offers to tens of thousands of commuters every day in the region’s most crowded area,” said U.S. Senator Patty Murray. “I’ll keep fighting for University Link and more reliable options for Puget Sound commuters.”

The President’s budget offers more fantastic news for the region as we work to build fast, frequent, reliable and sustainable options for commuters,” said Sound Transit Board Chair and Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels. “As chair, one of my top priorities is to secure a full funding grant agreement for University Link and this is an important step. Thanks to the work of Senator Patty Murray and our congressional delegation, University Link couldn’t be in a better position to start operations in 2016 and add 70,000 daily riders to the regional light rail system.”

With stations at Capitol Hill and the University of Washington, the project connects the region’s three largest urban centers: downtown Seattle, Capitol Hill and the University District. It will also serve three college campuses (UW, Seattle Central Community College, Seattle University) with a combined student population of more than 56,000 students.

“This news moves University Link that much closer to breaking ground,” said Sound Transit Central Link Oversight Committee Chair and King County Councilman Larry Phillips. “Sound Transit continues doing the hard work to offer regional commuters fast, reliable options for getting where they need to go.”

The project will offer much faster travel times for transit passengers than buses. Light rail will carry passengers from downtown to the University in 9 minutes instead of 25 and to Capitol Hill in 6 minutes instead of 14. Trips between Capitol Hill and the University District will take 3 minutes instead of 22. Riders will enjoy reliable service no matter how bad the weather or traffic congestion.

University Link is projected to nearly triple the regional light rail system’s ridership to more than 114,000 a day by 2030. The projected 2020 daily ridership for the 15.6-mile segment currently under construction between downtown Seattle and the airport is 45,000.

“This project will take thousands of cars off our crowded roadways every day and help combat climate change by offering a carbon-neutral way around traffic,” Nickels said.

The proposed $100 million would be the second time the federal budget has included funds toward University Link. Last year Congress awarded the project $19.6 million. The funds would be drawn down as part of the formal FFGA award.

The president’s budget also included $28.8 million for current light rail construction as the final installment of Sound Transit’s $500 million federal grant agreement for the Initial Segment of the Central Link light rail system. That line is 85 percent complete and on schedule to open between downtown Seattle and Sea-Tac Airport in 2009.

When University Link is completed, Sound Transit will have built almost 19 miles of light rail between the University and the airport with the taxes that regional voters approved in 1996.

University Link will provide a reliable option for drivers and transit users who are stuck on I-5, a facility that operates over capacity for up to eight hours a day, with vehicle speeds running between 15 and 35 mph. Already, buses can run up to 30 minutes behind schedule due to congestion. The population of the corridor served by University Link is projected to go up 56 percent from 2000 to 2030, further increasing congestion.

A look at ST for 2007

I would say they did very well in 2007 with a lot completed and accomplished. This is only adding to the State Auditors findings that ST is a well organized and set agency with the goal of bringing gridlock to as minimal as possible.


2007 Accomplishments

Download the 2007 Milestones Year-end report (PDF, 2 MB) >>>

Sounder Commuter Rail Service

• Started a reverse Sounder commute between Seattle and Tacoma.
• Started a new Tacoma-to-Seattle run.
• Started a third Sounder North line trip.
• Broke ground on the Lakewood Station.
• Broke ground on the Mukilteo Station.

ST Express Regional Bus Service

• Opened the Totem Lake Freeway Station.
• Opened the Canyon Park Freeway Station.
• Broke ground on the I-90 Two Way Transit and HOV lanes Stage 1 project.
• Broke ground on the Redmond Transit Center.
• Broke ground on the Redmond Way transit improvements.
• Broke ground on the Totem Lake Transit Center.
• Broke ground on the North Everett/College Station Transit Center.
• Federal grant awarded for senior housing development at Federal Way Transit Center.

Link Light Rail Service

• Opened the Link light rail Operations & Maintenance Facility.
• Broke through the first Beacon Hill East Portal with the Link tunnel boring machine.
• Completed excavating the Beacon Hill Station.
• Completed Tukwila International Blvd Station.
• Installed Tacoma Link stations closed-circuit television system.
• Completed University Link light rail’s design and cost estimate.
• Finished resurfacing Pine Street in downtown Seattle.
• Reached agreement with University of Washington on University Link.
• Reopened the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel for bus service. (1 Week Late)
• Reached 10 miles of continuous rail laid from Tukwila through the Rainier Valley.
• Began work on the SeaTac/Airport Station.
• Began final assembly of Link light rail trains. (In Everett)
• Began testing light rail trains. (Between DSTT and Operations and Maintenance Facility)


• Carried about 14 million passengers combined on trains and buses
• Reached 73 million in total lifetime ridership.
• Completed Smart Card beta test. (Orca card)
• Board adopted final Sound Transit 2 package for expansion of the regional transit system.
• Public voted on Sound Transit 2 package. (Failed)
• State Performance Audit released; ninth consecutive clean independent audit released.

Let’s hope for the same performance for 2008!


Central Link Light Rail Update – 12-26-2007

Construction is coming nicely along with the OCS (Overhead Contact System) in place from Tukwila International Blvd Station to I-5/SR 599 and Mlk Way/Boeing Access Rd to Raymond Street. The bridge linking Tukwila Station over SR 518 to the Airport is complete and ribbon rail is along side of the new Airport Expressway that is currently being welded.

First Up, Mt. Baker Station

Looking the other way at Mlk Way

Redevelopment along Mlk Way and the Route 42

Columbia City Station @ Alaska Street

Othello Station

Henderson Street Station

The recently completed elevated section of Boeing Access Road.

Tukwila International Blvd Station

I’ll have to take some time out this weekend and explore the Airport Segment more in-depth. Not any places I would recommend stopping at near the Airport where you can get photos of the construction though it may be a thought to take the bus to the terminal and walk up to the top of the parking garage and shoot down towards the alignment. I’m sure you can get a good vantage point of the Expressway and might be able to see the Tukwila Station as well.

Senator Murray keeps light-rail moving

Another update on getting Link to the University of Washington this evening as State Senator Patty Murray continues her efforts to secure FY 2008 light rail funding.


Sound Transit today lauded Washington Sen. Patty Murray for her efforts to secure $94 million in FY 2008 light rail funding, including $24 million for the University Link light rail extension and $70 million toward completing light rail from downtown Seattle to the airport. The funding is part of a key Congressional funding bill now headed for the White House

This is great news as it ensures that Link continues it’s progress on the 3.15 mile long extension to the University of Washington. It’s just a shame tunnel boring is so bloody slow. Construction will start next year with a completion around 2015 and testing will have the line open for service in 2016. Sound Transit is opting to only use one tunnel boring machine, the Emerald Mole, that is currently boring the second 4,000 foot long Beacon Hill tunnel which is scheduled to come out of the tunnel next month. If a second one was purchased for University Link, the system could open in 2011 but that would double the cost of the operation.

More Ron Sims

From this Times piece

Sims wrote: “While containing some good projects, this plan doesn’t solve traffic congestion in the short term, nor does it provide enough long-term relief to justify the financial and environmental costs. Tragically, this plan continues the national policy of ignoring our impacts upon global warming.”

It was a remarkable statement from someone who declared four years ago, while chairman of Sound Transit, “We’re going to dig and dig and dig and dig until the light-rail project gets to Bellevue, gets to Everett, gets to Tacoma.”

Hmm… Inconsistent…

There’s more:

And he says a proposed line through Federal Way to Tacoma would duplicate express-bus service that is being added by King County Metro Transit.

From the letter he sent out last year after Transit Now passed:

Increase frequency between Northgate, the University District and Downtown Seattle in advance of Link Light Rail completion;

South King County
• Improve east-west core connections to operate more frequently and/or over longer hours of operation;

• Update local routes to connect with light rail and commuter rail;

Excuse me? His express bus service was planned around light-rail. Now he is walking backwards. This isn’t about rail or express bus services. This is about Metro losing the transit hat to Sound Transit, and Sims clearly doesn’t like that. Sims wants to show that “bus rapid transit” works, as he keeps saying over and over, and that will help get him a cabinet position in Washington. That’s all he cares about.

Bus Tunnel re-opening celebration tomorrow

There are two celebrations marking the bus-tunnels reopening on the 24th. The first is tomorrow at 11:30, and includes a chance to walk through the tunnel. The second is a party at Westlake Park on the 24th itself. From the press release:

What a difference two years makes. After being closed for construction, the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel re-opens on-schedule for weekday bus service Monday, Sept. 24, better than ever. In a giant leap forward, the 1.3-mile tunnel has been retrofitted to incorporate Sound Transit’s Link light rail service, which will begin running through the tunnel in 2009. Link will connect downtown Seattle with Sea-Tac Airport, sharing the tunnel with buses. Which means one thing: It’s time to celebrate progress!

Sneak Peek: Press Conference & Public Tours
Tuesday, Sept. 18
11:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.
Westlake Station platform & mezzanine, Pine Street & 4th Avenue, Seattle (Enter through Westlake Mall’s Metro Level)

Street Treat: Street Fair & Celebration
Monday, Sept. 24
11 a.m. – 2 p.m.
Westlake Park, Pine Street & 4th Avenue, Seattle

Numbers Shine for Sound Transit

Sound Transit released some stats on 2nd Quarter performance and their hard work is starting to pay off! Total ridership on Sounder, Link light rail, and Express buses went up 11% compared to last year. The Sounder alone went up 20% while Express buses went up 10% and Link light rail 2%. This is awesome, especially since Central Link isn’t even completed yet. In fact they had 3.5 Million people use Sound Transit in the 2nd Quarter. When Central Link is completed and rolling on its rails, I only see Sound Transit going up. In my perfect world, when ST Link is running to Everett and Redmond, the numbers will be as high as some other larger cities perhaps? San Francisco? Chicago?

Speaking of ridership the 19 days of pain are almost here, and as you may have heard Sound Transit added a Sounder round trip run for a total of 5 runs. The new trip starts in Puyallup at 6:17am and returns leaving King Street at 4:50pm. They have tweaked the normal schedule so make sure to take a peek if you are a regular. I see this as really the only way to sanity during this stretch of time. It will show the region that we need grade separated transit badly. In fact I hope people will use Sounder and see that it is the way to go even with all I-5 available. It provides Sound Transit with a great opportunity to showcase the Commuter Rail. So tell everyone about it that can use this awesome service. Too bad they couldn’t do 9 or 10 round trip runs! However Sound Transit is the agency that is adding service on buses and trains during the I-5 maintenance project. King County Metro is not adding any additional service as they are maxed out. Is anyone trying Sounder out for the first time? What are you doing to avoid this mess? Vacation? The coffee shop idea Mayor Nickels was talking about?

Pat Murray shows Sound Transit the Money!

I know that’s a lame title for this post, but I’m in Sweden (that’s a Stockholm metro station on the left), where things are a little behind the times in the American pop culture department, but way ahead in terms of congestion pricing (the photo in that article is hella not from Stockholm, btw), and transit (exactly 100 metro stations in a city of 760,000 and a region of 1.9 million, who says transit can’t work in low density?).

Anyway, it seems that Patty Murray has come through for Light Rail in the region.

Sound Transit today lauded Washington Sen. Patty Murray for her efforts to include $30 million for Sound Transit’s University Link light rail project in a key Senate funding bill.

“Our Senator comes through again,” said Sound Transit Board Chairman and Pierce County Executive John Ladenburg. “When commuters jump on the quick, quiet and efficient U-Link, they should thank Patty Murray.”

The funding bill also includes a $70 million installment of Sound Transit’s $500 million full funding grant agreement for the initial Link light rail segment from downtown Seattle to Tukwila that is more than 70 percent complete. The line from downtown to Tukwila is scheduled to open for service in July, 2009, with the final leg from Tukwila into Sea-Tac International Airport to open by December, 2009.

Beacon Hill Tunnel Update

The PI published an article on Beacon Hill Tunnel progress when Sound Transit put a tour on Sunday.

“It is probably the most challenging construction project along the whole Link light rail line,” said transit-board member Larry Phillips, a Metropolitan King County Council member from Seattle, said during a tour Sunday morning. “The methods used to mine out this station have never before been used at this depth. We are standing here in an engineering and construction marvel that will be known throughout the world.”

That’s pretty awesome if just a bit exaggerated.

Phillips said the tunnel proves Sound Transit has the know-how to deliver 50 more miles of light rail, if voters approve it this fall. But the mining is tricky enough that officials canceled a deep train platform they once promised at busy First Hill.

Hmmm… I wonder if my fantasy ballot measure could some how include the First Hill station…

Tacoma Streetcars take a Step Forward

The Tacoma Street car system I mentioned has taken a step forward with the completion of a feasibility study.

An advisory committee that included officials from Pierce Transit and Sound Transit has identified three possible beginning routes:

• Sixth Avenue Line – Beginning where the Link light rail ends on Commerce Street, it would climb up the hill and connect to the east end of the city’s burgeoning restaurant row.

• Downtown Line – A serpentine line crisscrossing north and south through the core of downtown, possibly with one east-west connector going up and down the hill along South 11th Street.

• Portland Line – Beginning where the Link light rail ends on East 25th Street, it would run along Portland Avenue toward the new Salishan neighborhood on Tacoma’s East Side.

The News Tribune has a nice pdf of the possible alignments.

University of Washington Station One Step Closer

Today, Sound Transit and the University of Washington have announced an agreement with regards to Light Rail. Some details are:

Elements of the proposed agreement include:

  • Establishes an interim terminus for Link light rail at the University of Washington Station located near Husky Stadium and the UW Medical Center.
  • Supports Sound Transit’s construction plans for tunneling operations running south from UW to Capitol Hill.
  • Identifies at least two public entrances to the underground University of Washington Station with at least one entrance located north of Northeast Pacific Place and the Burke Gilman Trail.
  • Sets construction timelines for work on the campus not to exceed 66 months.
  • Sets specific monitoring measures for magnetic field and vibration thresholds to protect UW research facilities during light rail operations.
  • Provides $20 million to the UW for property to be used for current and future Link light rail construction and operations easements.
  • Provides $10 million to the UW for the permanent loss of up to 100 parking spaces at

  • Husky Stadium and the temporary use of approximately 600 parking stalls for construction staging.
  • Provides $5.2 million to UW for its design review and approval, potential relocation plans, construction coordination and participation in the review and approval of light rail operating plans.

People always ask why light rail takes so long. There are a lot of reasons, some financial, others technological, but another big reason is that Sound Transit works had to make sure most people in the community are happy with the project. Good or bad, it’s all a part of building a huge system in a region where no one can agree on anything.

No Net Loss of Lanes on I-90 due to Light Rail

Three weeks ago, I wrote about an anti-transit editorial that had the capacity loss on I-90 as one of its main arguments against ST2, because the link light rail will go through what is now the HOV section. The argument was that the loss of lanes from putting trains through the HOV section of the bridge would decrease overall car capacity.

However if you look at this graphic, ST2 will add one HOV lane in each direction on I-90 while removing the two HOV lanes in the center; thus there are no net lanes loss. And when you consider that almost half of the traffic across I-90 travels away from the city, you can see that the two HOV lanes travelling in just one direction is not as efficient as the two lanes in opposite directions. Basically 5 lanes in one direction versus 3 lanes in the other is only preferable if 65% or more of the traffic is going in one direction. However if almost as much traffic is going in each direction, it makes little sense to have more lanes in one direction. So with ST2, traffic and vehicle capacity on I-90 may be more than without it, and certainly people-moving capacity will increase. Isn’t that supposed to be the definition we care about now anyway?

RTID did have a plan for 520, Viaduct is expensive

Read about the 520 plan here. It’s what they told me earlier this month, but I didn’t completely believe them. It’s basically a lot of tolls and the expectation that the viaduct won’t use much of the state’s special project money.

On the subject of the viaduct, you probably have already heard that Seattle’s Council approved $8.1 million for the study of a surface/transit option. Hopefully Light Rail could be part of the surface transit option, since the cost of a light rail system around there through West Seattle could be comparable to the difference in cost of the surface transit from the rebuild. The difference from the tunnel could pay for a new subway practically .

Project Cost (in millions)
Tunnel $3,600 to $4,100
Rebuild $3,200 to $3,500
Surface Roads ~$1,600
East Link Light Rail to Downtown Bellevue $1,465.2 to $1,684.9
Light Rail from University of Washington to Northgate* $1,126.6 to $1,239.3

*Includes about 3 miles of cut-and-cover bored subway.

If they can build rail from Seattle to Bellevue for less than $2 billion and imagine what they can do with the difference from the surface roads improvments and either the tunnel or the rebuild. They could connect light rail from Burien to West Seattle to Sodo and build a subway through Belltown to Seattle Center and maybe even connect rail through Ballard for the $3.5 potential difference between a tunnel and surface roads. I bet that plus the roads option would get more total people through than either the rebuild or the tunnel, and with the state’s new definition of capacity, that’s what should be done.

Update: someone wanted links to the numbers, so here they are for Sound Transit. Click on the project and a pdf will open with the cost estimate. For the Viaduct, I got the numbers from Wikipedia.

Richardson is Pro-Transit

This post over at NPI’s blog about New Mexico Governor and Democratic Presidential Candidate Bill Richardson’s stop in Seattle has this nice nugget:

Transportation policy came up later during our discussion, and as Richardson began talking about mass transit, I asked him whether he would be willing to help out the Puget Sound with federal money for Link light rail.

Q: Would your administration grant a lot of money to metropolitan areas to build new and expand existing electric transit systems?

A: Yes! There is a highway bill that a President has. It’s the biggest pork in any bill. And it’s billions of dollars. When I was in Congress, it was $120 billion. We did it every three years. It’s gone up. And that’s money that goes straight to states. I would be a partner. I would say to Seattle: we will have some joint bonding. We will put in a certain amount if you do this and you build smart growth communities, [implement] sensible land use policies, and you commit to light rail instead of just expanding existing highways.

Richardson also pledged to keep Amtrak going and concluded by saying that he would be “a President with a national transportation policy: focused on light rail, bullet trains, more efficient transportation.”

Richardson’s answers on transportation left me satisfied but wondering about the other candidates. Transportation is not an important issue nationally – presidential candidates don’t spend much time talking about it – but it is a huge issue at the state level, and particularly here in Washington, where our infrastructure is aging and in need of new investment.

His point is pretty well thought-out. The joint-bonding would help speed up development since we know that all Sound Transit needs to complete its project faster is more of its money upfront. It can only issue five-year bonds, which means that it can only spend five years’ worth of income at a time. If the feds would joint issue the bonds, the bonds could be for 30 years with a much lower interest rate which would dramatically speed up the projects and actually make them cheaper.

Sound Transit Board Adopts ST2 Plan

Today Sound Transit’s board unanimously adopted the ST2 plan that will go to the ballot this November. From the press release:

Sound Transit 2’s light rail expansions build on the light rail in Sound Transit’s first phase, including the line between downtown Seattle and the airport that will open in 2009; the University of Washington extension that Sound Transit is working to start building as soon as 2008; and the Tacoma Link system that is operating today.

The Sound Transit 2 Plan adds service northward from the University of Washington to Northgate, Shoreline, Mountlake Terrace, Lynnwood and the 164th Street/Ash Way area of Snohomish County. To the south the system would extend through Des Moines, Federal Way and Fife to the Tacoma Dome, connecting with the existing Tacoma Link light rail system. A long-awaited light rail extension across Lake Washington would serve Mercer Island, Bellevue and Redmond’s Overlake/Microsoft area.

Check out the finalized plan that will go on the ballot. I am definitely voting for it, even if I’m not a fan of the RTID piece. We’ll never get a sent a transit package that will make everyone happy, and the more ballots we pass, the more we show those who can do something that we want more transit.