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Sound Transit Link LRT faces multibillion-dollar project cost increase

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Costs for voter-approved projects in West Seattle, Tacoma and Ballard are now expected to increase by $ 6.17 billion.

SEATTLE Several Link streetcar projects approved by Sound Transit voters face a shortfall in billions, due to an increase in construction and real estate costs and a reduction in expected sales tax revenues.

The biggest cost increases are for light rail to West Seattle, Ballard and the Tacoma Dome, as well as a new maintenance facility.

“We have updated cost forecasts that are not quite in the direction we would like,” said Geoff Patrick, spokesperson for Sound Transit.

The long-term effect of these cost increases could lead to a shortfall of $ 12 billion.

Sound Transit projects that are already under construction are not affected, such as the light rail projects at Northgate and the Eastlink project along Interstate 90 to Bellevue.

Patrick says seven of the eight projects currently under construction are on budget and on schedule.

“The point is, when you start out, you have a conceptual design that’s little more than a line on a map. And it’s only as you move the design work forward that you find out what you’re dealing with, ”Patrick told KING 5.

What they are facing is a recession caused by a pandemic that has slashed sales tax revenue, which funds a large percentage of these projects. This is associated with a hot real estate market which increases the costs of land and construction.

The silver lining for Sound Transit is time. He hired an independent third-party consultant to look at the numbers and get a better idea of ​​the cost increases. The silver lining for taxpayers, says Patrick, is what she will not take out of our portfolios.

“There is no discussion of increasing local taxes to address these issues. We ask members of the Sound Transit board to consider other alternatives, such as prioritizing projects, possibly building some phasing and delaying projects, ”said Patrick.

The consultant will start work in February and reveal its findings in April.

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