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While Sound Transit leadership has made sound budget decisions, the agency falls short on ridership forecasts, its citizen oversight panel works in obscurity and the agency needs to set aside more money in case of cost overruns, according to a just-released audit by the state.

The 125-page performance audit from state auditor Brian Sonntag also says the oversight panel isn’t a strong enough watchdog and over the years has included agency boosters. The panel is appointed by Sound Transit.

On the other hand, just last month, the group issued a tough letter highlighting low ridership on the Sounder north line, and raising the uncomfortable question of whether service should be reduced.

The audit also says  the agency’s management is skilled and organized well enough “to accomplish most of the adjusted ST2 plan within budget.” Voters in 2008 approved sales taxes to support an $18 billion expansion, which has since been reduced by about $4 billion, featuring light-rail service to Lynnwood, Overlake, and South 200th Street in SeaTac.

The audit also found that Sound Transit’s ridership forecasts for 2030 are based on dubious assumptions “that no longer are valid.”

Also, transit leaders have made reasonable adjustments to the recession by trimming their long-term budgets.

(We’ll update this post after reading the whole report and contacting the auditor and Sound Transit.)