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Federal Way Protests Sound Transit Cuts, 'Broken Promises'

Amy Radil

Officials from Federal Way, south of Seattle, say Sound Transit is breaking a promise it made to voters by postponing light rail. They say the cutbacks are hurting the working–class people most likely to rely on new transit.


In the "Sound Transit 2" funding approved by voters in 2008, Federal Way was to receive light rail by the year 2023. But Sound Transit officials say tax revenues have declined 25 percent during the recession and that timeline is now being pushed back a decade or more.

Federal Way officials say Sound Transit is not looking at all the possible options to get light rail built. Earlier this week the Federal Way City Council voted to consider a lawsuit against Sound Transit for what Mayor Skip Priest called broken promises.

Speaking before the Sound Transit board Thursday, Priest made a dig at Seattle's hand–wringing over the viaduct tunnel as he lamented the lack of light rail for his working–class, largely minority city.

Priest: "We hear a great deal of discussions about multi–million dollar tunnels here and multi–million dollar tunnels there. But the bottom line is, in its simplest form, the rich get richer while the working class gets the shaft."

Sound Transit board member Julia Patterson, who represents South King County, rejected Priest's description of broken promises. She said having a revenue shortfall is not the same as spending the money somewhere else.

Patterson: "I don't view it as a promise broken, I view it as simple addition and subtraction. Even if we did absolutely nothing else in the south corridor in any of the other projects we said we were going to do, we still would not be able to afford to get light rail to Federal Way."

Priest and Patterson both raised the issue of having areas with more tax revenue, like Pierce and East King County, share or loan money to South King County, where the shortfall is most acute. But that notion was rejected by representatives from those areas.

Sound Transit staff agreed to study an interim southern terminal at Highline Community College, one stop short of the one promised at South 272nd St.

They also said everything is on the table when it comes to determining the southern light rail route; Federal Way officials say it would be cheaper to run it down I–5 than along Highway 99 as currently planned.

I'm Amy Radil, KUOW News.

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