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Report: Sound Transit project isn’t anywhere near on budget

(Sound Transit)

When Sound Transit opened the new UW light rail station in March, representatives celebrated the project, saying it came in on time and under budget.

As it turns out, the only way the project could be considered on time and under budget is if the first 10 years of the project are ignored. What Sound Transit didn’t tell the public was that it internally reset its calendar after a series of bungled plans forced leaders to freeze the effort and go back to the drawing board, KIRO Radio’s Chris Sullivan reports.

According to The Seattle Times, Sound Transit’s first corridor will cost $4.95 billion, well over the promised $1.67 billion.

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KIRO Radio’s Dori Monson has long argued against the claims that the project was coming in on time and under budget. At the beginning of the year, he asked Sound Transit spokesperson Geoff Patrick how the project could be considered such a success.

Though Patrick admitted that Sound Transit had some “dark days” at the beginning, he told Dori that after re-evaluating, the board came back with a budget and schedule that “we can stand behind.”

But Dori argued that the past can’t be erased. The claim that everyone knows Sound Transit did a “reset” on the project is false, he said; new people are constantly moving to the area and don’t know the project’s history.

“So here’s what’s achievable: we can do this project and finish it in 2016 within a certain amount of money,” Patrick told Dori. “And we’re doing that ahead of that schedule and under budget. As far as we’re concerned, we’re doing better than we promised back then.”

The second phase of the light rail expansion is doing arguably better than the first, Sullivan says. A few segments are still under construction, including the track along the I-90 floating bridge.

But understanding the complications Sound Transit has had is especially important now, as voters will have to decide on a $54-billion ballot measure this fall. If approved, it would expand light rail, commuter trains, and rapid transit.

KIRO Radio’s Dave Ross wonders how Sound Transit expects voters to trust that figure now.

Sullivan says it’s a valid question, but voters continued to fund the project even after it fell behind schedule.

Meanwhile, the agency is under fire for improperly giving the email addresses of more than 170,000 customers to a political campaign promoting an expansion of mass-transit.

The agency turned over the email addresses of customers who hold transit passes called ORCA cards to Mass Transit Now!, the campaign for Sound Transit 3, the Associated Press reports. Patrick says Sound Transit gave the information to the campaign after its proponents filed a public-records request for the agency’s email subscribers lists. The request was interpreted too broadly.

Sound Transit has notified the campaign and asked it to remove all the improperly sent email addresses from its files and to no longer use them to contact voters.

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