Sound Transit reports Federal Way Link is $460 million over budget

Jul 27, 2018

During yesterday’s Sound Transit board meeting, officials reported that the Federal Way Link extension, a 7.8-mile light rail extension from Angle Lake to Federal Way, is a jaw-dropping $460 million over budget. The cost of the project increased 22 percent, from $2.09 billion to $2.55 billion.

According to The Seattle Times, Sound Transit “blames construction inflation for a $361 million boost in future contracts, and land costs are $107 million above estimates made two to three years ago.”

Almost one year ago, Sound Transit officials reported Lynnwood Link, an 8.5-mile light rail line from Northgate to Lynnwood, was a staggering $500 million over budget and would be finished six months late, in 2024. The project cost rose another $200 million after the Federal Transit Administration insisted on including more contingency money “to guard against even more spiraling inflation.”

Officials blamed the massive cost overrun on “soaring labor, materials and land costs in the overheated Seattle-area market, along with features being requested by communities.”

Five months prior to that, Sound Transit officials reported they would need $225 million more for East Link before construction could even begin. Officials said they had to tap into contingency funds for the cost overrun, leaving Sound Transit with $147 million in unallocated contingency money for construction.

In just one year, Sound Transit has reported over $1 billion in cost overruns.

Despite the cost overruns and delays, Sound Transit officials have been relatively optimistic about project delivery, taking it all in stride. With the most recent cost overrun, the Times reports that “CEO Peter Rogoff said the agency can find enough money to launch passenger service [to Federal Way] in mid-2024, as promised in the Sound Transit 3 ballot measure two years ago.”

Sound Transit officials’ optimistic response to the $460 million cost overrun is interesting, since during this last legislative session, they wanted to take $500 million reserved for education funding to backfill any loss in car tab revenue. They told the public that reducing inflated car tab tax overcharges and giving families modest relief would be catastrophic to their financial plan, and that Sound Transit 3 projects would have to be delayed. 

The Sound Transit Board’s positive outlook when they mismanage projects and report outrageous cost overruns stands in contrast to the bleak future they paint should they be required to give any money back to the public. This sends a message to taxpayers that the agency cares much more about their own multi-billion dollar budget and their investors than they do about the family budgets they continue to burden.

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