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Sound Transit 3 Plan Calls For Second Downtown Seattle Tunnel, 108 Miles of Light Rail

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Sound Transit unveiled their full ST3 plan before the transit board on Thursday. The $50 billion proposal, which will go voted on my the public, would be 108 miles of track with 75 light rail stations across 17 cities aiming to serve roughly 500,000 passengers daily.

Thursday afternoon, the Sound Transit 3 (ST3) plan was fully unveiled at a transit-agency board meeting. If approved it could revolutionize light rail transit throughout the Puget Sound region.

The big announcement at the heart of the plan would be a second Downtown transit tunnel that would create two distinct spines from which light rail could move into surrounding areas. One spine would begin in West Seattle and go north all the way to Everett while the other would begin down in Tacoma and travel all the way up to Ballard. The two lines would cross at Westlake Station.

All-told, there would be 108 miles of track with 75 light rail stations across 17 cities aiming to serve roughly 500,000 passengers daily. According to Sound Transit CEO Peter Rogoff the system would be comparable to Bay Area Rapid Transit or the Washington, D.C. Metro rail system.

While the news is sure to generate excitement amongst commuters and those looking for better alternatives to sitting in traffic all day, there's some bad news. This is all going to take a really long time. The West Seattle station isn't set to open until 2033 and the Ballard station isn't expected to open until 2038.

Also, the Ballard-to-UW line that many were hoping to see was not included in the draft plan. It will be considered as part of a study, however.

Downtown Redmond might end up being the quickest beneficiary of the plan with a station set to open in 2028. Bellevue College, Issaquah, and Everett are all looking at 2041. While these years feel far away, the truth is that the region should have been making these plans decades ago and better to start now than wait any longer.

Of course, there's the matter of the bill. The 25-year ST3 project will require $50 billion in total costs, which includes 27 billion in new taxes through 2041.

Public comment is expected in April but until then the debate is about to intensify around the potential for true light rail in and around Seattle.
· $50 billion Sound Transit proposal would boost light rail throughout region [ST]