Friday, December 08, 2006

No Windfall for Sound Transit

Yesterday Sound Transit rejected alternative proposals by downtown stakeholders for routing extension of Sounder commuter rail service to Lakewood through the Dome District. The regional agency turned down the proposals at least in part because they were too expensive.

Yesterday was a good day for Sound Transit since the Washington State Supreme Court upheld the agency's authority to continue collecting $2.7 billion in car-tab taxes through 2028 despite passage of Tim Eyman's Initiative 776 (I-776) four years ago. The rumor is already circulating that this ruling constitutes a "windfall" for the regional transit agency, and that some of this "found money" might be directed to underwrite the alternative Sounder routing.

Not so. The State Supreme Court simply re-affirmed Sound Transit's ability to collect Motor Vehicle Excise Tax (MVET) until 2028 to pay off the bonds sold to finance the light rail project. Because of I-695 and I-776, the agency no longer has the ability to even ask the voters if they would like to raise MVET to finance new projects like the one proposed by downtown stakeholders. Most likely, any re-routing of Sounder will take a strong financial commitment from local sources--of which there are very few...

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