Central Link finances could slow regional project

” At right, Tacoma’s Link light rail train that was on display in October. (Photo by Bonnie West) In January, two open houses will be held in Seattle for the public to review and discuss the Central Link light rail project which will, as it turns out, will end up costing more to complete than estimated.On Monday, Jan. 8, and Tuesday, Jan. 9, the public will have the opportunity to view displays and talk with Sound Transit authorities from 4 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at the Great Hall at Union Station located at Fourth Avenue and Jackson Street in Seattle.Sue Comis, project manager for the Tacoma Link light rail, feels that residents of Pierce County may be interested in the proceedings surrounding the Central Link project, even though Tacoma’s project is separate.The short piece of Tacoma Link light rail and the much longer 21-mile portion in King County are going to be the first phase of the light rail system, she said. The ultimate plan is to extend the rail down to Pierce County and Tacoma, then north and east as well. So if you don’t have the first piece it effects the much larger system. The ultimate goal was to have a regional system and this is the first step in making it happen.The Sound Transit Board is meeting mid-January to consider approving a higher budget and longer schedule to complete the Central Link light rail project.The board must also consider a $500 million federal grant to help build the light rail. If the region waits too long deciding what to do, that crucial federal money could be lost for several years. The good news for Puget Sound residents is that the light rail remains affordable without raising taxes.Comis explained that Sound Transit has a principal of sub area equity which means all the local tax money raised in each sub area is spent in those areas. There are five sub areas regionally: north, south and east King County, Pierce County, and Snohomish County.In each of the areas the people in that area pretty much had the decision on what they wanted to spend money on in regard to regional transit projects, Comis said. Here we have Sounder and light rail and the regional express buses. In King County they don’t have light rail or commuter rail, in phase one they just went with buses.Comis said that Tacoma’s Link light rail is moving ahead with construction on the project’s maintenance base beginning January 25–a small operations for Link drivers and maintenance facility for the vehicles.The rest of the work on the line, all the street work and rails and stations will come later, Comis said. Those contracts haven’t been awarded yet.For anyone in Pierce County interested in attending the Central Link light rail open houses, several bus routes serve the area including the Downtown Seattle Tunnel International District Station. For bus information call 1-888-889-6368. “