Temporary train station on hold

Unless Sound Transit staff can justify paying for it, Whidbey Island ferry commuters may need to wait three more years to catch the train in Mukilteo.

Agnes Govern, director of Sound Transit’s capital projects, said the Sound Transit finance committee is not convinced Transit should spend an estimated $1.5 to $2.5 million of public money to build a temporary train station at Mukilteo that may only last a couple years.

Despite the skepticism about the future of the temporary station, however, no final decision has been made by Sound Transit’s Board of Directors. Until the board’s decision, Sound Transit staff are researching how long a temporary train station will be needed.

“We’re still in the process of analyzing that for the board,” Govern said.

The news of the temporary station in jeopardy may disappoint some South Whidbey residents. That disappointment probably extends to several residents who applauded when they heard about the station during a meeting about the proposed Mukilteo multi modal ferry terminal in Clinton last December. The station is part of a multi-modal ferry terminal planned for Mukilteo in several years. Train commuters will be able to drive their vehicle on the ferry at Clinton, park it in Mukilteo and ride the train to their job. Walkers may access the train directly from the ferry without touching the ground.

But efforts by state Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen could ensure the transit board will have nothing to say about financing. Haugen, the chair of the Senate transportation committee, said she will try to include financing for the station in a transportation package.

“I will try my darnedest to get a temporary station,” she said The package may costs billions and include financing for repair or replacement of the Alaska Way Viaduct.

Haugen said she plans to push for funding the station as part of proposed state transportation funding package. To raise revenue, she said the state might increase gas tax slightly, charge more licensing fees, close tax loopholes for businesses and charging vehicles for weight rather than a flat fee.

Eric Beckman, Mukilteo project manager, said some funds, such as a North Corridor Reserve Fund and some possible project savings, could pay for the station.

The temporary station, slated for construction in 2006, provides a stop for the Sound Transit train between Seattle and Spokane until construction of a permanent station either in 2007 or 2008 at a budgeted cost of $18.2 million.

Residents supporting the temporary station have an ally in Haugen, a long-time proponent of public transportation, said finances even being a problem surprised her. She said Sound Transit never approached her about a question of money.

Whidbey Island residents often tell her they support the temporary train station, she said. In her view, it often provides a faster way for commuters to get to their jobs instead of the bus, and puts more riders on trains which are often not full and pulls drivers off crowded highways.

No arrangement has been reached with the city of Mukilteo for extra parking, the Department of Defense has not transferred ownership of the tank farm where the terminal is planned yet and demolition of a Mukilteo street is needed to bring the train tracks closer to the multimodal terminal, Govern said.

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