Despite rejection from Pierce County, ST3 is passing
Update The Sound Transit ballot measure that will expand light rail throughout King, Pierce, and Snohomish counties over the next several decades will likely pass, according to the latest ballot count. In fact, The Seattle Times is reporting it already has, despite Pierce County voters rejecting the measure by 56 percent.
Though it will takes years to see the benefits, taxpayers will have to start paying for it starting next year.
In January, sales tax will go up half-a-percent, car tabs will more than triple, and property taxes will jump over $300 per year in the Sound Transit district.
ST3 has 55 percent approval among counted ballots.
King County Executive Dow Constantine, who is the Sound Transit chairperson, told KIRO Radio that the percentage is a “very strong number” and said “we are very confident but we’re going to wait to see all the votes counted.”
Constantine said the vote shows people have embraced light rail as an alternative to sitting in traffic.
“They know we need to build a high-capacity transit system to deal with the transportation challenges we have now and those that will come with another million people living in this region,” he said.
Constantine said he was happy with the voter output, and was confident that the 10-point advantage would hold up even as ballots continue to be counted.
“We always knew that Pierce County would be a little bit of a problem as we’ve had some difficult votes there in the past but the strong, strong numbers from King County and also the positive result from Snohomish far more than offset that,” he said. “I am particularly grateful that my constituents in King County are approving this by more than a 58 and a half margin. They know full well that we can’t keep doing the same thing we’ve been doing and expect a different result. We have to build an alternative to sitting in traffic.”
Assuming the vote passes, he says the next step will be working to build “on the foundation of this agency that is delivering projects ahead of schedule and under budget. Making sure we can maintain that same discipline, that same accountability as we expand to create more transit more quickly.”
On the ground, the first priorities will be the light-rail extensions all they way to downtown Redmond and Federal Way, and bus rapid transit all along I-405 and State Route 522, Constantine said.
“We are going to work hard to get those projects out there early and get people moving again,” Constantine said.
The planning and permitting will also be key.
“Any time we can save there means delivering a transit system sooner,” Constantine said. “The sooner we deliver it, the more value people get out of it. And if you saw the traffic this morning, you know we don’t have any time to lose.”
He said he was grateful to people of the region for embracing this task.
“We have tried for decades to build a transit system that would serve the needs of a growing population and a growing economy and it would have been less expensive to do it 50 years ago, but we didn’t,” he said. “Really, there was no time like the present so folks understood that, they stepped up and they did something difficult. They voted to tax themselves to build infrastructure that will serve this region for decades, generations really, to come.”
Between Pierce, King and Snohomish Counties, there was 55 percent approval, and 44 percent against the measure by 10 a.m. on Wednesday.
The $54 billion Sound Transit 3 (ST3) measure is failing in Pierce County with 56 percent rejecting it. However, it is passing with 58 percent approval in King County and 52 percent approval in Snohomish County.
The overall plan isn’t expected to be complete until the early 2040s. Once complete, a rider could potentially get from Dupont to Everett without the need for a car. The Sound Transit proposal would extend light rail’s reach, including cities east of Seattle, such as Bellevue and Redmond, and to Seattle’s more westerly neighborhoods.
The measure was hotly contested by many, including by People for Smarter Transit. Former King County Council member Maggie Fimia told KIRO 7 that the measure is “a waste of taxpayer dollars” and it takes away from transit service.
The anti-ST3 group argued that Sound Transit spent millions on advertising and marketing to gain approval of the light rail effort. The counter-argument is that even $20 million over 10 years wasn’t too much.
It was reported that local tech giants were also pumping money into the effort.
Well before the election, it was reported that, unlike what Sound Transit said, the light rail project was nowhere near on time or under budget. The Seattle Times reported that the first corridor cost $4.95 billion, well over the promised $1.67 billion.
The agency also came under fire for improperly giving the email addresses of more than 170,000 customers to a political campaign promoting an expansion of mass transit.
If the measure passes, it will cost the “typical adult” an additional $169 per year — or roughly $14 per month.