Sound Transit is $225 million over budget on East Link before construction has even begun

Mar 23, 2017

In case you missed it, The Seattle Times posted an article today that Sound Transit will need $225 million more for a construction contract that was originally estimated to cost $486 million.

According to the Times, “this would raise the total contract to $712 million for seven miles of work, from the International District/Chinatown Station to South Bellevue.” The $225 million shortfall leaves $147 million in unallocated contingency funds for the rest of East Link construction.

Interestingly, Sound Transit officials chose not to reopen bidding for the main construction phase and say the cost is “fair and reasonable.” The agency seems to forget that contingency money is not free money. Public officials have a responsibility to taxpayers to seek the best value for the lowest possible cost.

The news of the cost overrun comes at a time when Sound Transit is being sued by Mercer Island to delay construction of East Link. The City wants more time to negotiate with Sound Transit and the Washington State Department of Transportation to preserve mobility and safety for islanders. In general, however, city officials seem supportive of East Link, despite opposition and concerns expressed by residents.

The Center has expressed concerns about East Link in the past, and we continue to have concerns today. Light rail across I-90 will make traffic congestion worse not just for drivers and buses, but also emergency responders and freight.

Needless to say, we will continue to track the progress of East Link. Sound Transit officials like to claim that their projects are on time and on budget, and unfortunately, this is yet another example of why this claim is often untrue.

Read the Times article here.