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I-976 fallout: No plan to delay or defer Sound Transit projects under contract

The Sound Transit Board plans to meet next Thursday to discuss which projects could be delayed or deferred due to I-976.

As agencies scramble to determine the impacts of Initiative 976, Sound Transit does not plan to recommend delaying or deferring projects that are currently under construction or contract.

“That would be wasteful of the taxpayer money we’ve already spent on this project to acquire property, to get the contractor on board and all that sort of stuff,” Sound Transit spokesperson Scott Thompson said Wednesday.

Those projects include the Northgate, East Link, and Hilltop Tacoma light rail extensions, which are all under construction. The Lynnwood and downtown Redmond extensions are also likely not impacted, because they have already broken ground. The Federal Way Link extension is expected to continue as planned, because a design-build contractor was awarded over the summer.

I-976, which voters approved last week, caps car-tab fees at $30. The initiative could cost state and local governments over $4 billion in revenue over the next six years, according to the state Office of Financial Management.

RELATED: When will car tabs cost $30 in Washington?

Sound Transit plans to discuss the financial implications of I-976 during its next board meeting on Nov. 21 and could make recommendations about which projects will be affected. The board will consider Sound Transit 2 and Sound Transit 3 projects that aren’t already under contract, according to Thompson.

However, some residents are skeptical about other impacts of I-976. Tom Hickey, who attended a community meeting Wednesday on the Federal Way Link extension, worried initiative language about bond repayment would defund projects.

“My big question was with 976 if this project was actually funded,” Hickey said of the Federal Way project.

Sound Transit isn’t the only agency that may have to postpone projects due to I-976. King County says it will lose $52 million that funds RapidRide expansion and reliability improvements. The city of Seattle says more than $8 million is at stake for road maintenance, transit corridor, and bike and pedestrian safety projects.

Last week, Gov. Jay Inslee instructed the Washington State Department of Transportation to postpone projects that are not yet underway. WSDOT was not able to immediately provide a list of which projects will be postponed.

“WSDOT has many unique projects in different phases at any given time and a lot of communication must occur both internally and externally to ensure clarity on what this means going forward,” WSDOT Communications Director Kris Rietmann Abrudan said in an email.

A legal challenge could also complicate funding.

Several agencies, including King County and the city of Seattle, filed a lawsuit Wednesday, claiming I-976 was "a poorly drafted hodge-podge” that violates the Constitution. The plaintiffs also plan to file an injunction Thursday to prevent I-976 from taking effect or being enforced.

RELATED: Lawmaker wants outside counsel to defend possible I-976 lawsuit

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