Renton officials focused on making sure bus rapid transit in ST3 package is what was promised

Officials in Renton said they were pleased to see something for Renton in the mix but said they were holding final judgment until all of the details of exactly what bus rapid transit would look like in our area.

  • Friday, April 1, 2016 5:22pm
  • News

A draft list of projects due to be part of this fall’s $50 billion Sound Transit 3 plan was released last week and though there is no light rail scheduled to make its way into our section of the county, the plan does include money for an I-405 Bus Rapid Transit project that contains Mayor Denis Law’s proposal to move the downtown Transit Center to Rainier Avenue South and Grady Way.

The “South Renton Transit Center” project is included as part of the “early deliverables” section of a presentation available online, with a completion date of 2019-2024.

Officials in Renton said they were pleased to see something for Renton in the mix but said they were holding final judgment until all of the details of exactly what bus rapid transit would look like in our area.

“We’re nowhere in the plans for light rail, so bus rapid transit in its original form … is critically important to us,” Law said Monday.

Council President Randy Corman agreed.

“I’m going into this quite cautious,” Corman said.

Both Law and Corman said they would like a guarantee that the BRT project would be “true bus rapid transit,” designed to be more like light rail with set stops and timing and continuous service, and not simply an express bus.

“You want it to be fast,” Corman said.

For years, officials in Renton have said residents have paid into the Sound Transit program, but the city has very little to show for it. Both Law and Corman said it was good to see something coming to the area but were not sure it would be enough to secure votes from Southeast King County.

The mayor also said that while he appreciates its inclusion, he thought the new transit center should be “in addition” to any new proposals from Sound Transit because he wants to use money that was approved for the area as part of ST1 but not spent to build it.

He also said he planned to “go to bat” to make sure the BRT proposal is up to snuff.

“What we have to do is make sure we have alternatives so it’s easy for our residents to get on a bus and get where they need to go quickly,” Law said. “And we deserve that.”

According to the plan, the BRT service in the I-405 corridor would dramatically improve the speed, reliability and frequency of buses, with service up to every few minutes in peak hours.

“Sound Transit 3 delivers on the promise of a truly regional mass transit system for generations to come,” Sound Transit Board Chair and King County Executive Dow Constantine said in a press release. “The public input we receive will help us shape the best final plan that will be on the November ballot.”

The big deal in the package, however, is the extension of light rail around other parts of the region.

By adding 58 miles of light rail and 39 stations, the press release says ST3 would establish a “truly regional, 108-mile system that connects cities from Everett to Tacoma and from Seattle to Issaquah, providing 525,000 people congestion-free service each day.”

The Sound Transit Board’s meeting was followed by a news conference at which members emphasized the importance of future transit expansions. The draft plan responds to strong region-wide support for additional mass transit expansions as the region’s population grows by an estimated million residents through 2040. The projected growth is equivalent to adding the current combined populations of Seattle, Tacoma and Everett.

The $50 billion in investments would be funded through new voter-approved sales, MVET and property taxes. The estimated additional annual and monthly costs of the new taxes for a typical adult in the Sound Transit District are the same: approximately $200 annually or $17 a month, according to a press release.

Additional information on funding for ST3 can be found at http://soundtransit3.org/document-library

The projects would be delivered in steady succession over the plan’s 25-year period. The timeline reflects the significant time requirements for building major infrastructure projects and the scale of the light rail extensions and capital investments, which are more than double Sound Transit’s first two phases. The major investments require revenues collected over the full 25-year period as well as bond sales and federal funding.

A public comment period on the plan began Tuesday.

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