Biden’s budget includes funds for light rail, buses in Kent

Sound Transit light rail extension and King County Metro RapidRide line

Funding for major light rail and bus transit projects that impact Kent are included in President Joe Biden’s fiscal year 2022 budget that still must be approved by Congress.

• $100 million for the Federal Way Link Extension, which is currently under construction and will extend Sound Transit’s Link light rail system 7.8 miles from the existing Angle Lake station in SeaTac through the cities of Des Moines, Kent and Federal Way in South King County. The extension is scheduled to open in 2024.

• $55.6 million for The RapidRide I Line bus rapid transit project in South King County, which would bring service to suburban communities along a 17-mile corridor between the cities of Renton, Kent and Auburn. The project includes 23 diesel electric hybrid buses, 1.95 miles of transit exclusive lanes, level boarding stations, off-board fare payment and transit signal priority and queue jumps. King County Metro plans to upgrade the Route 160 into RapidRide I Line by 2023.

The new Route 160 began operating in September and provides residents with a single route connecting Renton, Kent and Auburn, and service every 15 minutes on weekdays. The RapidRide I Line will use the same pathway and offer riders even faster, more frequent and reliable bus service, fast all-door boarding and enhanced stations and passenger amenities, according to a Metro news release.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg announced the funding for the projects on May 28 as part of the president’s budget.

The projects are among 25 rail, bus rapid transit and streetcar projects in 12 states recommended to receive a share of $2.5 billion in competitive funding through the Federal Transit Administration’s (FTA) Capital Investment Grant (CIG) Program. These projects will create hundreds of construction and operations-related jobs and help communities expand transportation options that improve access and mobility for residents.

“Across the country, communities are seeking to expand public transit as a way to create economic opportunity, improve safety, advance equity, reduce congestion and pollution, and lower the cost of living for their residents,” Buttigieg said in a news release. “These capital projects will improve life in 25 communities and are the start of what we hope will be a once-in-a-generation investment to modernize and expand public transit across the country.”

The president’s budget also includes $100 million for the light rail extension to Lynnwood now under construction and $75.2 million for bus rapid transit service between downtown Tacoma and the Spanaway Walmart Supercenter.

The CIG Program is the federal government’s primary grant program for supporting transit capital projects that are locally planned, implemented and operated. It provides funding for investments such as new and expanded heavy rail, commuter rail, light rail, streetcars, bus rapid transit, and ferries, as well as corridor-based bus rapid investments that emulate the features of rail. The program includes funding for three categories of eligible projects, as defined by the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act: New Starts, Small Starts and Core Capacity.

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