Sound Transit CEO Peter Rogoff said voters within the agency’s taxing district have made a “personal sacrifice.”
Rogoff testified before Congress on Wednesday as he tried to convince the federal government about the importance of infrastructure funding.
“The personal sacrifice by our region’s voters was not small. Our taxpayers have demonstrated remarkable determination to meet their surface transportation needs. Federal infrastructure policy should reward this level of local effort, not penalize it,” Rogoff said.
That sacrifice he’s referring to came in the form of higher taxes. Most recently, voters approved Sound Transit 3, a $54 billion, 25-year mass transit project that will expand the light rail system throughout the region. Sales tax went up half a percent. Car tabs now cost $110 annually for every $10,000 of assessed vehicle value. Property taxes increased by $25 per $100,000 of assessed home value, with increases limited to 1 percent every year from 2018 on.
Sound Transit says local taxes make up just over half of the agency’s total funding.
The problem is that the agency relies on other sources of funding as well, including the federal government.
Sound Transit is currently trying to secure $1.17 billion for its $2.9 billion Lynnwood expansion project under the Capital Investment Grant Program (New Starts program). Last year, the FTA approved the extension that would connect Lynnwood and Northgate. Congress appropriated $100 million for Lynnwood in 2017, with the expectation that more funding would be on the way. However, the current administration in the White House has proposed cutting funding for future grants, which includes the expansion to Lynnwood.
If the funding doesn’t come through, the agency will have to brainstorm other ways to fund the Lynnwood project; part of its previous Sound Transit 2 plan. If that happens, projects scheduled for Sound Transit 3, assumes $4.7 billion in federal funding over its 25-year lifespan, could be delayed before they even begin, and could be underfunded.
According to Sound Transit, “By 2021, Sound Transit is on track to complete light rail to the U-District, Roosevelt, and Northgate. In 2023, trains will reach Judkins Park, Mercer Island, Bellevue and Overlake /Redmond, while in 2024 further extensions are scheduled to reach Shoreline, Mountlake Terrace, Lynnwood, Kent/Des Moines, Federal Way and downtown Redmond. From there, continuing voter-approved expansions will reach Tacoma, West Seattle, Ballard, Everett, South Kirkland and Issaquah.”
You can watch Rogoff’s testimony below.