- The Bellevue Chamber of Commerce has decided not to back a $54 billion light rail plan that would connect more outlying areas to Seattle mass transit, according to the Puget Sound Business Journal.
- The Sound Transit 3 (ST3) initiative — which is up for a vote on Nov. 8 and would add 62 miles of rail and rapid-bus transit service to the Seattle area — has the support of many other business groups.
- The chamber said there were too many unanswered questions about the proposed extension and said it was unsure about being able to project the costs and benefits of those projects scheduled to begin operation after 2030. Chamber officials said they could get behind short-term rail projects serving the region's high-density areas.
The Sound Transit Board said ST3 would cost the average adult $169 annually and each household an extra $1,048 a year. The initiative would be financed by increases in the motor vehicle and sales taxes, in addition to a new Sound Transit property tax.
Light rail projects are popping up all over the country as the public becomes more amenable to the benefits of mass transit. While some have full public and legislative support, others, like ST3, have been met with mixed reaction. In Minnesota, a proposed $1.8 billion Minneapolis light rail extension is on its last legs after failing to win enough votes from state lawmakers. However, the Minneapolis regional transportation and planning agency has put its own funding package together in the hope of securing $900 million in federal money.
Maryland's $5.6 billion Purple Line light rail project is also in jeopardy after a U.S. District judge ordered a new ridership analysis and environmental impact study before allowing construction to proceed. He removed the project's federal approval until planners addressed safety and ridership issues. Maryland plans to appeal the decision and said time is of the essence, as financing depends on a certain schedule. The project is one of the largest public-private partnerships in the U.S. and is only the second to include a private financing component.