Kirkland leaders are questioning whether their residents will get enough value from the Sound Transit 3 plan compared to the amount of taxes they will be paying. Renton leaders are raising some of the same concerns.
After waiting decades for their cities to be included in Sound Transit ballot measures, leaders of Kirkland and Renton, the sixth- and fourth-largest cities in King County, say they aren’t getting their money’s worth in the proposed Sound Transit 3 package and can’t yet support it.
Kirkland residents pay $19 million annually in current Sound Transit taxes. That would jump to $44 million a year if voters in November approve the package in its current form, according to city figures. Renton residents now contribute $23 million a year.
Yet neither city is included in ST3’s big light-rail expansion.
Sound Transit 3 forums
The comment period ends Friday. Forums have been held in several cities. Here are the three remaining.Information, including project lists, appears at soundtransit3.org
• Redmond: Wednesday, 5:30-7:30 p.m. including a 6 p.m. presentation. Old Redmond Schoolhouse Community Center, 16600 N.E. 80th St.
• Downtown Seattle: Thursday, 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., with a noon presentation, at Union Station, 401 S. Jackson St.
• Federal Way: Thursday, 5:30-7 p.m. with a 6 p.m. presentation, at Todd Beamer High School, 35999 16th Ave. S.
“Kirkland does not want to oppose the ST3 ballot measure. Kirkland wants to be supportive. But we don’t feel the draft plan has sufficient value for Kirkland voters,” said City Manager Kurt Triplett.
Renton Mayor Denis Law echoed those concerns. “It’s very frustrating for us. We’re the only city of our size that hasn’t received so much as a parking garage.”
Both cities now are pressing the Sound Transit Board to reconsider its project list before finalizing the ballot measure in June. City officials say they have the employment centers and population growth to support high-capacity transit and both describe commutes on their arterials now as “gridlock.”
Sound Transit Board members say they’ve heard the concerns being raised around the region about the scope and pace of the ST3 plan. The $50 billion draft proposal calls for light rail to Redmond and Federal Way in 2028, to West Seattle Junction in 2033, Ballard in 2038, Bellevue College and Issaquah in 2041 and Paine Field and Everett Station also by 2041.
Sound Transit 3 would boost an average household’s taxes by $400 per year.
Snohomish County leaders, as well as Ballard and West Seattle residents, have complained light rail is arriving too slowly and not serving enough population centers.
“This is a debate I expect to have,” said Metropolitan King County Councilmember Claudia Balducci, who is among the Eastside representatives to the Sound Transit Board. “I hope we can address all the concerns as we amend the final plan in June, but we are not going to be able to do every project.”
Kirkland is asking that Sound Transit consider bus-rapid transit on the Cross Kirkland Corridor. Leaders note that Kirkland has several major development projects recently completed or in the works, including the expansion of the Google campus, a major rebuild of Totem Lake Mall and the big Kirkland Urban project downtown.
“It’s our job to make sure we have the transportation infrastructure to support our growth,” said Mayor Amy Walen. She said the current Kirkland projects in ST3 focus on I-405 and don’t conveniently connect residents to light rail. “We felt this round was the time to be connected to the (Sound Transit) spine. We need it,” she said.
The current ST3 package includes an analysis and environmental study of high- capacity transit from Bothell to Bellevue on the Eastside Rail Corridor, which includes the Kirkland Corridor. City leaders say there’s no guarantee there will be a Sound Transit 4 or that BRT on the corridor will ever be built.
The Kirkland request is complicated by a vocal group of residents that opposes any transit on what is now a walking and biking trail. The group, Save Our Trail, opposes even the environmental study.
“Any study just opens the door for light rail or buses on the trail,” said Rose Dennis, a member of the group, which Monday sent a letter to the Sound Transit Board saying it will actively oppose ST3 if it includes any plan or study of mass transit on the trail.
Renton leaders are asking Sound Transit to re-appropriate $68 million from the initial, 1996 package for HOV access to I-405 that was never built and use it to build a new transit center and parking facility at Rainier Avenue South and South Grady Way.
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Mayor Law said Sound Transit 3 should include bus-rapid transit access to the new station as well as a 2,000-stall parking garage.
Renton has joined other Eastside cities including Bellevue and Bothell to urge Sound Transit to build a genuine bus-rapid transit system along I-405 that includes dedicated lanes, stations along the freeway and buses with multiple doors designed to “dock” at station platforms.
Law described it as the equivalent of light rail on rubber tires, something he said has been “talked about for 20 years and never seen.”
Renton City Council President Randy Corman said the current ST3 package offers Renton only one bus station — and it’s dependent on the state finishing its expansion of I-405 south of Bellevue first.
“I personally am considering voting against the ST3 package. I think many of the other council members are there as well,” Corman said.