It wasn’t a runaway victory like some of the other initiatives on the Washington State ballot, but Sound Transit Proposition 1 received 55 percent of the vote as of Tuesday evening tallies, all but ensuring that the 25-year ST3 plan will move forward and 62 new miles of light rail will eventually line the Puget Sound region in the decades to come. [UPDATE: ST3 has officially been approved]
Of the three counties voting, King County was the one that backed the initiative the most, garnering a 59 percent approval. Snohomish County backed the initiative at 52 percent while Pierce County was on the other side with 56 percent voting against it. King County’s overwhelming numbers gave it’s votes more weight.
What happens now? Well, Sound Transit can begin construction on a comprehensive light rail system that would top out around 116 miles of track. It will stretch from Everett to Tacoma, stopping in Seattle neighborhoods like Ballard and West Seattle, and adding lots of Eastside destinations such as Redmond, south Kirkland, Bellevue, and central Issaquah. Extensions will be also constructed to places such as Angle Lake, Northgate, Lynnwood, Mercer Island, Bellevue, and Overlake. At full strength, service will be provided 20 hours a day across the entire system. Part of the plan is also an expansion of Rapid Transit bus service and the creation of more commuter lots.
The entire project asks $54 billion from taxpayers and won’t be fully complete until 2039, though many stations will be completed years before then (Federal Way and Redmond scheduled for 2024). The average adult will end up paying $169 in new taxes beginning next year for the expansion.
Opponents of the project felt it was too expensive and not the best option possible. Perhaps, but the region is already decades behind on light rail and public transportation (drive the I-5 at rush hour if you don’t believe that). The price tag for a worthwhile light rail system would only get higher as our population and needs rise.