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Sound Transit 3 To Accommodate Seattle’s Anticipated Growth, While Adding Value To The Region

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By Kristin Bentley

The newly elected CEO of Sound Transit, Peter Rogoff, who formerly served under President Obama as the Federal Transit Administrator, spoke to the NAIOP Washington Chapter on Wednesday about the current plan for Sound Transit 3. The U.S. Census predicts close to a million more people relocating to the Puget Sound region in the next 30 years, which intensifies the city’s need for extending its public transportation system.

“What does close to a million more people mean? Well, it means putting on top of the region’s population that we already have, another population of both Seattle and Tacoma combined together,” said Rogroff. “So when you think about the mobility challenges in terms of not just moving people but also moving freight and being economically competitive, and how we will accommodate all of that, that’s really where Sound Transit 3 has come in.”

You can build an investment and walk away, or you can partner with folks to try to bring about an entire vision for a community

Under proposed changes, the Sound Transit 3 plan will add an additional 62 miles of light rail with stations serving another 37 areas, for a system that will reach a total of 116 miles throughout the Puget Sound region.

According to Rogroff, a city’s investment in transit transforms the community. “You can build an investment and walk away, or you can partner with folks to try to bring about an entire vision for a community,” Rogroff told NAIOP members. He added that this is where the development industry comes into play, where there is a huge opportunity for a partnership between industry partners and public transportation agencies to do more than just build transit.

“It’s life changing,” added Rogroff. “It changes the trajectory of people’s opportunities to actually have a chance to see the last half of a little league game, or get home in time to supervise homework and have dinner as a family, rather than wonder if today’s commute is going to be 50 or 90 minutes. But with those quality of life changes that come for residents, also come really unique development opportunities.”

Statistics show that property in Rainier Valley, a district of Seattle, appreciated more than 50 percent since the light rail system opened in 2001, says Rogroff. Across the U.S. other cities with close proximity to public transportation have also experienced growth in property value. The DART Rail System in Dallas has generated over $5.3 billion in private real estate investment over the last 20 years. Rogroff says that Dallas operates more miles of light rail than any other city in the U.S., which has transformed the entire metropolitan area. Another example of this can be seen from a report by JLL that shows new residential supply in both San Francisco and San Jose are concentrated near transit and urban centers.

In November, Washington’s voters will decide on whether to approve the plan for Sound Transit 3. Under this plan, the Link Light Rail will extend north to Everett, from Midtown to Ballard and Alaska Junction, from Bellevue to Redmond and Issaquah, and south to Tacoma. It will also extend the Bus Rapid Transit from Burien through Renton and Bellevue to Lynnwood, as well as extend Sounder Rail south to DuPont. The proposed improvements to the light rail are now anticipated to be complete anywhere from two to five years ahead of schedule, opening stations in downtown Redmond and Federal Way in 2024.

A future environmental study for high-capacity transit between Bothell and Bellevue will also be conducted. On Wednesday, the City of Bellevue announced that Sound Transit told the city council that there is potential for a transit-oriented development (TOD) in BelRed, next to a planned light rail maintenance yard. The transit agency recently completed a feasibility study and market analysis for a TOD, which would feature housing and offices between 116th and 120th Avenues. The site is near the future East Link Spring District 120th Avenue station and the Eastside Rail Corridor. The feasibility analysis considers residential and commercial uses for the site, while the market analysis compares the site for TOD with competing areas nearby.

Sound Transit anticipates presenting a schedule, scope and budget for the project to the Sound Transit Board of Directors on July 28, and will re-evaluate again once a proposal for the maintenance yard has been accepted. The maintenance facility is scheduled for completion in 2020, with construction of the TOD targeted for completion when East Link goes into service in 2023.