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Sound Transit’s $50 billion light-rail extension plan faces pushback

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EVERETT, Wash. -- Big plans are being proposed for a major expansion of the region’s light rail system.

Leaders are seeking $50 billion to extend the line north to Everett and south to Tacoma, as well as east to Redmond and Issaquah.  At that point the system will become a truly regional network.

Voters will be asked to pony up in November, but there is pushback over the huge price tag, and about the decades-long timeline.

Despite the $50 billion cost, it’s still going to take 25 years for light rail to make it to Everett and Tacoma -- not until 2041.

“Our community is telling us pretty clearly they’re not happy with that,” said Paul Roberts, a member of the Everett City Council.  “We’re trying to accelerate the delivery from that plan.”

Roberts and others argue that changing the corridor where light rail is proposed will shave nearly a decade off the timeline of getting the line to the heart of Snohomish County.

“Every day the commute between here and Seattle and here and the jobs center in southwest Everett gets longer and longer,” Roberts said.

Currently, the  Seattle line is being extended to Lynnwood, Des Moines and Bellevue by 2023.  The additional $50 billion, if voters approve, will take the light rail line to Everett, Tacoma and the Eastside.  But those lines won’t open until 2041 -- 25 years from now.

The Sound Transit Board is considering the changes that Everett leaders are asking for, but hasn’t made any commitments.

Here are the details of the fall ballot measure:

  • Covers King, Pierce, Snohomish counties
  • $50 billion
  • $400 for average household (property, sales and vehicle taxes)
  • 58 miles and 39 stations

Voters have approved Sound Transit money twice, so this would be the third go at the ballot box.