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SEATTLE, WA-On the heels of severe criticism over Sound Transit Authority’s announcement last week that its 21-mile light-rail project would cost $1 billion more and take three years longer to construct than planned, the project has been dealt another blow by a formal, joint statement from Capitol Hill business and community groups expressing their lack of support for the project.

The turnabout is the result of an impasse between the community and STA over impacts the project’s construction would have on businesses and residents. Specifically, the “cut and cover” construction of stations would require large holes to be dug, with traffic detours skirting the Broadway business district. The death knell for area support came with STA’s announcement last week that it planned to slow down its construction schedule, thereby adding more time to the disruption of commerce than business owners felt they could survive.

STA has examined a rail alignment that would circumvent Capitol Hill, but the board did not want to lose the 13,000 to 15,000 daily riders it believes the community would provide for the light-rail system. When adjusted for inflation, the cost of building the transportation project has increased from an estimated $2.5 billion to $3.6 billion. The Transit Authority says the additional costs could be covered without additional taxes through the future sale of surplus real estate, adjustments to the agency’s financial plan, tax revenues collected over the extended building schedule and the addition of more Federal money.

According to STA, its board will decide at a meeting scheduled for Jan. 11 whether it will sign a $500 million Federal grant to help with the project. King County Executive Ron Sims, who also sits on the Sound Transit Board, called the January meeting “very important.” According to its own report of the Dec. 14 meeting, the STA believes “if that Federal money doesn’t come to the Puget Sound region, it (the light rail project) could be lost for several years.”

STA last month suspended planning for its main tunnel from Downtown Seattle to the University District and has since hired a new interim director for light rail.

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