Why Seattle’s light rail expansion is taking so long

Jul 10, 2019, 12:53 PM | Updated: 1:40 pm
seattle light rail...

Building a city-wide light rail is certainly no easy task, but when residents have been paying associated taxes for ages, one begins to wonder just when the train is actually going to arrive in your neighborhood.

The $54 billion tax package to finance eight light-rail extensions is likely not to see the fruits of its labor for up to 22 years, with trains projected in Redmond and Federal Way by 2024, Tacoma and West Seattle by 2030, Ballard in 2035, Everett in 2036, and Issaquah and South Kirkland in 2041.

So, why is it taking so long?

“This idea that more money would help maybe speed it along is true in some cases. But one of the qualifiers of that is that the problem with having more money it that it would allow for more options to be considered, and that could slow it down even more,” said KIRO Radio’s Tom Tangney.

According to a report from The Seattle Times, the seemingly drawn out timetable is due to several issues, including funding, meeting prescribed environmental checklists, securing the property early on, and getting interested parties and organizations on the same page, among other factors.

I lost my home to Sound Transit’s light rail

“Now other people are saying enough already, we’ve been paying taxes since 1997,” Tom added.

While the light rail can feel delayed, major transit projects can take upwards of decades to complete. In Los Angeles, for example, their 2016 $120 billion ballot measure is projected to be completed over the course of 50 years.

Will Seattle’s light rail become obsolete by the time it’s finished?

For co-host John Curley, the drawn-out approach to a transit project like light rail is another indication of government bureaucracy trailing behind the free market, especially with regards to a technology that may become anachronistic under the current timetable.

Homeless camp sweeps are up: Is Seattle shuffling them out of sight?

“By time the work is done it’s normally obsolete because the free market and other choices rush in and actually surpass the speed in which the public projects are being done,” Curley said.

King County Councilmember Joe McDermott of West Seattle told The Seattle Times that he believes it OK for light rail to take this long because “The light-rail alignment we build now will serve us for over a century,” he said. “We need to make sure we do it right, not just faster.”

But Curley doesn’t agree.

“If he actually believes that 100 years from now that we’ll still be traveling the exact same way, and that this thing needs to last 100 years, let me tell you something, Mr. McDermott: It will last because not many people will be using it, so the normal usage wear and tear that you’re probably calculating into that 100 years, you can probably increase that by twofold.”

Vacant 25-acre piece of land may become a new Seattle neighborhood

“The speed in which science and technology leaps ahead of many of these public projects happens every single time; the market comes in and solves a problem faster and more effectively and you get more people moving from point A to point B. So all the money we’re truly wasting on this project to carry such a teeny-tiny percentage of travelers is outrageous. But we all feel good building light rail.”

Listen to the Tom and Curley Show weekday mornings from 9 a.m. to noon on KIRO Radio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

Tom and Curley on KIRO Radio 97.3 FM
  • listen to tom and curleyTune in to KIRO Radio weekdays at 3pm for The Tom and Curley Show.

Tom and Curley Show

Tom and Curley

Last Duel...
Tom Tangney

Poor Marguerite’s story saves ‘The Last Duel’

Tom Tangney says, ultimately, The Last Duel is a proto-feminist take on the Middle Ages with Marguerite's take that brings the film into focus.
9 days ago
James Bond...
Tom Tangney

Daniel Craig’s final James Bond movie comes full-circle

The 25th installment in the James Bond movie franchise may be titled "No Time to Die," but "Too Much Time to Die" may be more fitting.
17 days ago
Tom and Curley Show

Kraken CEO: Climate Pledge Arena is the ‘most beautiful arena in the world’

Tod Leiweke, CEO of the Kraken, told KIRO Radio's Tom & Curley Show about what fans can expect for the upcoming season and at the new arena.
18 days ago
segregation, homeless affordable housing, apartments, housing...
Tom and Curley Show

Rep for landlords says Seattle needs to focus on ‘real solutions’ to fix housing crisis

Brett Waller, director of government affairs for the Washington Multifamily Housing Association, explains the recent housing bills in Seattle.
26 days ago
Tom and Curley Show

Tom & Curley Show interrupted by a squirrel

In the middle of reading letters from listeners on Monday, John Curley was interrupted by his dogs bringing a squirrel inside his cabin.
1 month ago
Jay Inslee, pause, reopening, vaccine order...
Tom and Curley Show

Not much point in suing over Inslee’s vaccine order, says former state Attorney General

The vaccine order from Gov. Inslee for state workers stands on pretty firm legal ground, according to former Washington Attorney General Rob McKenna.
2 months ago

Sponsored Articles


Medicare open enrollment for 2022 starts Oct. 15 and SHIBA can help!

Washington State Office of the Insurance Commissioner SPONSORED — Medicare’s Open Enrollment Period, also called the Annual Election Period, is Oct. 15 to Dec. 7. During this time, people enrolled in Medicare can: Switch from Original Medicare to a Medicare Advantage plan and vice versa. Join, drop or switch a Part D prescription drug plan, […]

How to Have a Stress-Free Real Estate Experience

The real estate industry has adapted and sellers are taking full advantage of new real estate models. One of which is Every Door Real Estate.
IQ Air

How Poor Air Quality Is Affecting Our Future Athletes

You cannot control your child’s breathing environment 100% of the time, but you can make a huge impact.
Swedish Health Services

Special Coverage: National Prostate Cancer Awareness Month

There are a wide variety of treatment options available for men with prostate cancer. The most technologically advanced treatment option in the Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform.
Marysville Police Department

Police Opportunities in a Growing, Supportive Washington Community

Marysville PD is looking for both lateral and entry level officers. Begin or continue your career in law enforcement for a growing, supportive community.

Small, Minority-Owned Businesses in King County and Pierce County Can Now Apply For $10,000 Relief Grants Through Comcast RISE

Businesses in King County and Pierce County can apply beginning on October 1, 2021, at for a chance to receive a $10,000 relief grant.
Why Seattle’s light rail expansion is taking so long