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Jason Rantz: ‘Fishy’ Sound Transit timeline reason to say no to ST3

The Legislature came one step closer to forcing Sound Transit to lower car tab fees. (KIRO Radio)

Something seems fishy with Sound Transit’s new plan. They put out their multi-billion dollar plan just eight weeks ago and most people weren’t happy. We argued that the projects to bring light rail across the region would take way too long; that it’s not really appealing to spend thousands of dollars on tax increases for projects many of us will never actually get to experience.

Now, suddenly, Sound Transit revised the timelines and promise that projects will be done sooner. Yeah, right.

Related: Sound Transit spent over $850K tax dollars on party no one asked for

The Seattle Times reports, “Light-rail extensions would be built faster than originally proposed, with Everett getting service in 2036, five years sooner than Sound Transit had announced, and Federal Way and Redmond coming online as soon as 2024, under a revised plan released Thursday.”

Sound Transit promises we won’t get hit with higher taxes. They say they made these changes based on “new financial assumptions and strategies.” It’s amazing how quickly these news financial assumptions and strategies can change after Sound Transit got spooked that their package wouldn’t pass.

Mike Lindblom of the Times says, “Finance details weren’t immediately available Thursday, but [Sound Transit CEO Peter] Rogoff said consultants found the agency could sell an additional $4 billion in bonds between the sunset of the Sound Transit expansion program under way now and the 25-year construction plan outlined in Sound Transit 3.”

Oh how about that. Details were not immediately available and I guess they somehow missed these details as they painstakingly tried to come up with a massive project.

This reeks of a political strategy. It seems similar to when they pretended the U-Link light rail was on time and under budget (that’s only true when you ignore the fact that they changed the budget and timeline when they knew it was wrong).

There were dramatic new financial assumptions that just so happened to address the majority of concerns with people saying they’d vote no? Where did this new strategy come from and how long did it take to devise? Either they were always there and due to incompetence you didn’t give us the correct strategy to begin with or you’re revising things around in a way to placate concerns, with no intention of following through.

I don’t believe the new strategies because I don’t trust the messenger. And sudden new strategies that change projects for the better can lead to sudden new strategies (after this ST3 package passes) going back to the old timeline. There are no guarantees.

I’m a fan of light rail. I love it. I used it (and subways) extensively in Europe. I actually want to support light rail in Western Washington. But the projects still take too long and I don’t trust Sound Transit to deliver on such pricey projects. I’ll happily support smaller projects with better timelines. Put that up for a vote and you’ll get a happy ‘yes’ while building back our trust that you can complete projects on time and on budget. Until then? I can’t justify this much of a hike in taxes.

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