You knew we were back in monorail wonderland along about the end of July when the Times reported Sound Transit's November bus-rail expansion measure would cost $17.9 billion and the P-I reported it would cost $22.8 billion.
Shades of 2005 when the $1.6 billion proposed Monorail Green Line from West Seattle to Crown Hill came in around $11 billion, once true taxpayer costs (fees and interest, among others) were included. Ditto Sound Transit's 2007 Prop 1, another failure, whose transit-expansion price tag was $18 billion to $160 billion. Pick a figure, hold your nose, and vote, said ST.
Now we have the $17.9 billion to $22.8 billion 2008 Prop 1. Or is it the $107.3 billion Prop 1? That's the estimate of transportation planner and Sound Transit critic Jim MacIsaac. As the P-I reports today:
...MacIsaac estimates approval of the measure would authorize collection of more than $107.3 billion over 45 years, including $55.8 billion for the expansion, and the per-household expansion tax bill would be $284 annually next year and increasing in later years.
Sound Transit officials say that's wrong. The agency expects to cut back the expansion tax after it's completely paid for, by 2038. It says MacIsaac's number includes current taxes at levels that may decrease. [Mayor Greg] Nickels, at a forum this week, called critics' numbers "false ... misleading."
Bureaucrats hate it when you bring up real costs - the interest-weighted money it takes to finance construction. It tends to double and triple the price tag presented to taxpayers. Officials dismiss it with the argument that when you buy a house you don't include interest in the price, either.
Of course, you can always sell your house, get your money back, and avoid the full-term interest cost (current market collapse excepted). But when you buy a new transit plan, you pay full price - plus overruns. Typical of Nickels, ST and others pushing rail expansion - which most of us back - they'll paint over reality rather than present us an honestly detailed picture.
Bottom line: MacIsaac's projections are likely more practical than ST's - the ballot measure does not specifically mention a tax time-out down the road. I can already hear the official excuse, come 2038, when the project is, cough, completely paid for: "Sorry, the tax will continue. Ha ha. They probably just said that to get the thing approved."