Seattle plans two stations, part of $6B light-rail expansion
- Seattle's Central Puget Sound Regional Transit Authority (Sound Transit) will build two underground light-rail stations only five blocks apart in the tech-heavy South Lake Union area of the city due to a "bend" in the route of a $6 billion light-rail initiative, according to The Seattle Times. The second stop was an add-on to the original light-rail plan and will cost in excess of $550 million to build.
- Critics of the move argue that Sound Transit needs to consider less expensive alternatives to the second station, particularly given the pressure that community groups have put on the agency to add unbudgeted features at the potential expense of others.
- The second station, however, has won the support of business leaders and politicians who maintain that just one station can't handle the South Lake Union's ridership. Sound Transit officials told The Times that it expects between 13,000 to 17,000 daily passengers at the original South Lake Union station and 7,300 to 9,400 passengers at the second one.
Last month, Sound Transit announced that it was in the early development stages of $6.7 billion in light-rail projects that will connect downtown to the city's western suburbs. Sound Transit will take comments during the next year on the planned projects – the 4.7-mile West Seattle Link Extension ($1.77 billion), the 7.1-mile Ballard Link Extension ($2.9 billion) and the 3.3-mile downtown Seattle Light Rail Tunnel ($2 billion). The projects are part of the $54 billion Sound Transit 3 plan, which voters approved in 2016.
Seattle isn't the only city that has turned to light-rail as a way to improve mobility for residents. Charlotte (North Carolina) Area Transit System (CATS) head John Lewis, just after the opening of the $1.1 billion Lynx Blue Line Extension, announced earlier this month that he wants to see three light-rail lines (total cost $5 billion to $7 billion) built at the same time. CATS has no funding in place yet for the additional lines, but Lewis said he would consider advocating for a variety of financing strategies, including a special transit sales tax, state and federal contributions, rental car taxes, higher vehicle registration fees, special value-capture property tax districts and public-private partnerships (P3s).
Local transportation agencies might be forced to consider P3s as an option because the Trump administration wants to prioritize projects of national importance and reduce funding for projects deemed local or regional as part of its federal infrastructure plan.
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