Sound Transit adopts hybrid realignment plan to delay delivery of future expansion projects

Aug. 9, 2021
The plan will serve as a framework as the agency works to bridge a $6.5-billion affordability gap for future projects and will not impact projects currently under construction.

The Sound Transit Board adopted its realignment plan on Aug. 5, following 17 months of outreach and evaluation. The realignment plan readjusts timelines to deliver most transit projects included in the agency’s ST3 plan by one to 10 or more years. About 40 percent of the projects could see a delay of more than five years with Sound Transit explaining the plan will serve as a framework for delivering future projects.

The realignment was required as Sound Transit faced a $6.5-billion affordability gap to deliver projects on earlier schedules. The agency says the gap is the result of several factors, including a steep rise in real estate and construction costs and advancing environmental review and project designs.

"In the next three years, Sound Transit will nearly triple the length of our light-rail system from 22 to 62 miles," said Sound Transit Board Chair and City of University Place Councilmember Kent Keel. "The realignment plan will guide our work to expedite the next waves of projects, including reaching Tacoma, Everett, West Seattle and Ballard and delivering bus rapid transit and Sounder expansions. These projects are critical for keeping people moving in the face of our population growth and for protecting our economy and environment. To succeed, we will need expanded collaboration at the local, state and national levels."

Projects currently under construction, such as light-rail extensions to Northgate, Lynnwood, Bellevue, Redmond, Federal Way and Tacoma Hilltop, are not included in the realignment plans and Sound Transit notes these projects will be delivered on schedule.

Sound Transit says it is committed to “intensively pursue additional financial capacity and cost reductions” that would deliver some planned projects faster. The plan assigns each project a tier status of one through four with projects in the top two tiers to be managed under more ambitious completion targets unless required revenues are not generated, which would push them back to affordable completion dates.

"The adopted realignment plan shows what is achievable under our current financial projections, but also sets targets for delivering projects sooner by closing the affordability gap that is identified for each project," Keel said. "I am grateful for the leadership of System Expansion Committee Chair Claudia Balducci for working with me in developing this hybrid approach."

Sound Transit said the board is committed to securing additional funding to “eliminate financially necessitated delays altogether.”

Details of the realignment plan, including affordable and target schedules for each project, are available at www.soundtransit.org/realignment.

About the Author

Mischa Wanek-Libman | Group Editorial Director

Mischa Wanek-Libman serves as editor in chief of Mass Transit magazine and group editorial director of the Infrastructure and Aviation Group at Endeavor Business Media. She is responsible for developing and maintaining the editorial direction of the group and is based in the western suburbs of Chicago.

Wanek-Libman has spent more than 20 years covering transportation issues including construction projects and engineering challenges for various commuter railroads and transit agencies. She has been recognized for editorial excellence through her individual work, as well as for collaborative content. 

She is an active member of the American Public Transportation Association's Marketing and Communications Committee and serves as a Board Observer on the National Railroad Construction and Maintenance Association (NRC) Board of Directors.  

She is a graduate of Drake University, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism and Mass Communication with a major in magazine journalism and a minor in business management.