Federal Way light rail extension clears key hurdle toward federal grant

Agency seeks $790 million

  • Wednesday, April 10, 2019 3:41pm
  • News

The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) on Wednesday moved Sound Transit’s Federal Way Link Extension forward in its rigorous funding process, granting the project approval to advance to the engineering phase — a necessary step toward securing a critical grant.

The project has also earned a “Medium-High” rating by the FTA in its annual review of transit projects seeking the highly competitive grants, according to a Sound Transit news release. The agency is seeking a grant of $790 million to help extend light rail 7.8 miles from the Angle Lake Station in SeaTac through Kent to Federal Way.

In the coming months Sound Transit will continue intensive work to advance its federal grant application, working closely with the FTA and the region’s congressional delegation.

“Years in the making, this critical federal investment is a testament to the collaboration and determination of Sound Transit and local leaders to reduce congestion along the busy I-5 corridor and strengthen public transit options for families and workers in Puget Sound,” said Sen. Patty Murray, a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, in the news release. “As a voice for our state, I will keep fighting to strengthen federal investments in smart transportation priorities like the Federal Way Link project that will help increase mobility and improve access for communities throughout King County.”

“Today’s (Wednesday) announcement lays the groundwork for the very first light rail investment in South King County,” said Sen. Maria Cantwell, the top Democrat on the Senate transportation committee. “With a 91 percent increase in traffic delays over five years in Puget Sound area, this is a critical investment that will cut commute times in an increasingly clogged I-5 corridor.”

“I am pleased to see that the Department of Transportation has granted Engineering Authority for this vital regional project,” said Rep. Adam Smith. “The Federal Way Link light rail extension will connect thousands of passengers daily from the Angle Lake station in SeaTac to the Federal Way Transit Center. This will give commuters access to a range of options for travel to various business centers, education options, and community events. Engineering Authority will allow the next phase of this project to finally begin, and I look forward to seeing the progress that is made. As our region continues to grow rapidly, projects like these are critical to relieving congestion, connecting communities, and improving access to travel for all.”

The FTA’s Capital Investment Grant program is the federal government’s primary financial resource for supporting transit capital projects that are locally planned, implemented, and operated. With FTA’s approval of the project into Engineering, FTA locked in the Capital Investment Grant funding amount at $790 million, the level requested by Sound Transit.

“South Sound commuters critically need relief from ever-worsening traffic congestion and access to the opportunities that mass transit creates. Our partnership with the FTA is critical to getting the Federal Way Link Extension underway,” said Peter Rogoff, Sound Transit CEO. “We’ll be working closely with the Federal Transit Administration and our Congressional delegation to obtain this funding.”

The Capital Investment Grant program requires that projects seeking funding complete a series of steps over several years to be eligible. The FTA approved the Federal Way Link Extension to enter project development in 2016. Following this latest step, Sound Transit will work with the FTA to demonstrate its readiness and capacity to achieve the project’s scheduled 2024 completion.

The Sound Transit Board established the scope, schedule and baseline budget of $2.45 billion for this project in 2018. Under new guidelines announced last year, the FTA is requiring additional contingency funding for all Capital Investment Grant projects. Under these new guidelines, Sound Transit is seeking 25 percent funding of the total federal project estimate of $3.1 billion. This estimate includes funding to purchase 20 additional Link vehicles.

Trains on the 7.8-mile light rail extension from Angle Lake in SeaTac to Federal Way will serve three stations along the route in Kent/Des Moines, at South 272nd Street and the Federal Way Transit Center. Demolition and utility relocation work is scheduled to begin this fall, with major construction activities beginning in 2020.

By 2021, Sound Transit will expand light rail to the U District, Roosevelt and Northgate. In 2023 trains will reach Mercer Island, Bellevue and the Overlake area. In addition to completing the Federal Way Link Extension, 2024 will bring the opening of further extensions to Shoreline, Mountlake Terrace, Lynnwood and Downtown Redmond. From there, continuing expansions will focus on Tacoma, West Seattle, Ballard, Everett, South Kirkland, Issaquah and Tacoma Community College, forming a 116-mile regional system by 2041.

More information on the Federal Way Link Extension is available at soundtransit.org/fwlink.

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