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Voters to weigh costs, benefits of transit measure

Sound Transit witnessed record-breaking ridership this year in wake of high gas prices. - Courtesy photo
Sound Transit witnessed record-breaking ridership this year in wake of high gas prices.
— image credit: Courtesy photo

The mass transit ballot proposal Sound Transit will place before voters Nov. 4 would cost Puget Sound residents about $69 a year, about the price of a single tank of gas, collecting on a 5/10s of 1 percent sales tax increase a total of $17.8 billion for 2009 to 2023.

While critics like NotoProp1.org say that is too many bucks for too little bang, Sound Transit officials insist the plan has much to offer, such as increased regional bus service, more Sounder round trips and improvements at various stations along the way.

For the City of Auburn, said Sound Transit spokeswoman Linda Robson, voter approval could mean money to build the second transit parking garage west of the tracks.

In broad terms, the ballot proposal would:

• Create a 55-mile light rail core, offering fast, reliable light rail service unaffected by traffic or weather conditions.

• Increase bus service by 17 percent and 100,000 hours beginning in 2009.

• Provide a 65-percent increase in Sounder capacity between Tacoma and Seattle, adding four new, daily round trips between the cities.

• Add 36 miles of light rail to the link system, including south from Sea-Tac Airport to Highline Community College.

• Expand the Auburn, Kent, Sumner, Puyallup, Tacoma Dome, South Tacoma, Lakewood and Mukilteo stations.

“This could mean a garage in Auburn,” Robson said. “We are calling it station access improvements because we have a pot of money for each station, but we are going to work with each of the jurisdictions on a plan to see what those communities want. Auburn wants a new garage, but folks in Puyallup and Sumner might say they’re not sure a garage is what they want downtown.”

Robson said the expanded light rail and commuter rail services would be accessible to 70 percent of the population and 85 percent of the jobs in the Sound Transit district by 2030.

NotoProp1.org says the ballot proposal amounts to nothing more than a repackaging of the measure voters so soundly thumped last November.

“Absolutely false, this a totally different animal,” Robson said. “There’s nothing in here about roads. It’s all about transit. That’s not to make fun of roads, but it cuts the cost nearly in half. It’s a huge distinction. The transit element is also significantly different from the last time around. The last one focused on light rail investment and capital investment. This one offers significant investment in immediately increasing regional bus service and increasing Sounder service, which Auburn participates in.”

Auburn Mayor Pete Lewis was not impressed with the talk about a second parking garage, which would be built on C Street land owned by Sound Transit.

“Sound Transit has made that statement a couple of times,” Lewis said. “Our perspective is that it was in the original plan for the second parking garage to be built. I expect them to keep their word. If the ballot goes through, that’s my expectation, and if it does not go through, that’s my expectation.”

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