Regional transit projects vetted

By Ruth Longoria

A list of 79 possible transit projects made its way to the Sound Transit boardroom Thursday as officials looked at what will ultimately become Sound Transit 2 (ST2), the second phase in a vision of mass transportation linking Snohomish, King and Pierce counties.

As it stands now, the Interstate 90 light rail or bus convertible to light rail project tops the list for East King County plans. However, even if the board continues to approve the project -- as with all of the ST2 projects -- voters would need to bestow their blessing as well.

``We don't have any authority to build new projects without a vote,'' said Ric Ilgenfritz, chief communications officer for Sound Transit.

The original ST2 list consisted of about 500 projects, but it has been whittled down through a lengthy process of meetings examining which projects are consistent with agency goals and needs of the area.

``We can't have it all and we had to get down to a reasonable starting point,'' said Sheila Dezarn, Sound Transit's policy and planning program manager, during a press briefing prior to the board meeting.

The list is expected to get cut further before public voting or construction begins. Many, possibly half, of the 79 projects won't ever begin, transit officials said Thursday.

``We haven't costed out what this list will be, but it's going to be considerable,'' Ilgenfritz said. Cost estimates should be completed by December, he said.

Other light rail projects on the list include possible extensions from Sea-Tac to Des Moines, Federal Way and Tacoma; and from Husky stadium to Northgate.

Ilgenfritz said that Sound Transit will be a co-lead with the state department of Transportation in conducting environmental impact studies of the I-90 project. ``We would hope the federal highway and FTA also will be involved,'' he said. Also involved, he added, will be the governing bodies affected by the project, including Bellevue, Mercer Island, Seattle and King County.

The Sound Transit board will decide in December which of the projects will be passed on to the voters in 2006.

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