Pierce County voters reject light rail expansion, but still have to pay for it

TACOMA, Wash. – Whether you wanted it or not, you’ll be paying for it.

A $54 billion dollar ballot initiative to expand light rail got overwhelming support from voters  in King and Snohomish counties, but was rejected in Pierce.  Still, it passed with the cumulative vote in the other two counties

The 116-mile regional light rail system would go from West Seattle to Issaquah and Everett to Tacoma.

Thursday night marked another celebration from Sound Transit board members after a victorious election night.  Sound Transit 3, or Proposition 1, means a massive light rail expansion project across the region.  The last leg of the 25-year project is in Pierce County.

“We’re going to have the opportunity people in Seattle do, which is to take that light rail up to the airport and take our flight wherever we want to go,” said Pierce County Executive Pat McCarthy.

However, the majority of Pierce County voters said no.

“A lot of people probably felt like we were paying for stuff for Seattle,” said Angela Ferguson, who voted for ST3.

It’ll take about 14 years before the Federal Way Transit Center gets light rail service and finally extends to Tacoma.  But Pierce County taxpayers will pony up the costs for the $54 billion project starting on day one.

“I’ll be dead before it comes through and all my tax money is going to go into something I won’t see,” said Noreen Tollefson, who voted against ST3.

Tollefson who voted against the measure.

“I don’t see it helping Pierce County at all for a long time,” said Tollefson.

“It was a struggle because the Pierce County portion is so far out that it kind of felt like I’m paying for all this stuff to be done and not reaping the benefits for the near future,” said Ferguson.

Pierce County Executive Pat McCarthy urges voters to have foresight.

“It’s hard to really envision but at some point we’ve got to do something. So have some faith and let this system build out,” said McCarthy.

While some 78,000 people in Pierce County approved the plan, Toffelson says the drawn-out timeline fails everyone.

“My grandkids maybe, but by the time it happens, they’re going to need something new,” said Toffelson.