Sound Transit is constructing a 7.8-mile light rail extension from SeaTac to Federal Way, scheduled to open in 2024. COURTESY PHOTO, Sound Transit

Sound Transit is constructing a 7.8-mile light rail extension from SeaTac to Federal Way, scheduled to open in 2024. COURTESY PHOTO, Sound Transit

Sound Transit to get $158M federal grant for light rail extension

Funds to go toward new $3.1 billion line between Federal Way and SeaTac

Sound Transit’s light rail extension from SeaTac through Kent to Federal Way will receive $158 million from the federal American Rescue Plan.

The new Capital Investment Grant (CIG) program award, administered by the Federal Transportation Administration (FTA), was announced Friday, July 9 by U.S. Democratic Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell. Murray is a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee. Cantwell is chair of the Senate Commerce Committee.

Sound Transit’s light rail extension to Lynnwood will receive a grant of $94 million.

This funding will supplant part of the local share of funding for the projects that was required for the full funding grant agreements that Sound Transit had entered in to with the FTA for each project, saving local taxpayers millions, according to a Murray news release. With many transit agencies struggling during the pandemic, Murray fought to include funding specifically to help alleviate local match requirements for transit projects with full funding grant agreements in the American Rescue Plan.

“The people of Puget Sound have been clear they want to see more investments in light rail and public transit throughout the region, so I’m working to help make that happen,” Murray said. “I fought to make sure the American Rescue Plan included funding for struggling transit agencies and to save local taxpayers money—I’m glad that the FTA is using that funding to continue their commitment to these critical projects.

“The Federal Way and Lynnwood Link extension projects are crucial to reducing congestion, curbing emissions, and opening up opportunity and mobility to communities that have traditionally been left behind. These projects and their continued success and progress show how much we can achieve on transit with federal support, and I’m going to continue working to get that support in the other Washington, through programs like the Capital Investment Grant and upcoming infrastructure legislation.”

Sound Transit’s $3.1 billion project will extend light rail 7.8 miles from Angle Lake Station in SeaTac to the Federal Way Transit Center. Passenger service is expected to begin in 2024. Stations will be built at Kent/Des Moines, South 272nd Street in Kent and in Federal Way.

“This is good news for Puget Sound commuters,” Cantwell said. “Every federal dollar that we get helps keep Sound Transit’s light rail expansion moving and gets us closer to building a transit spine from Everett to Tacoma. These funds will help provide four light rail stations between Shoreline and Lynnwood, and three stations between Kent and Federal Way.”

The CIG program is a discretionary funding program for the construction and expansion of new and existing fixed-guideway public transit systems such as heavy rail, light rail, commuter rail, bus rapid transit, streetcars, ferries, and certain corridor-based bus systems. Agencies applying to the CIG program work closely with the FTA through rigorous project development and engineering phases, after which the FTA decides whether to give the project a grant agreement and the corresponding federal dollars.

In 2020 and 2018 respectively, Sound Transit and FTA entered into full funding grant agreements for the Federal Way and Lynnwood projects. These agreements include federal commitments to help fund these projects along with a local funding match. The grants announced July 9 will go directly to Sound Transit to continue work on these projects, and come in addition to previously committed federal funding for the project, saving Sound Transit a combined more than $252 million they originally would have had to spend on the projects.

“This funding is critical to delivering the largest transit expansion program in the nation, providing thousands of jobs while we combat rising congestion and climate change,” said Sound Transit CEO Peter Rogoff. “We thank Sen. Murray and Sen. Cantwell for enabling these transformative investments, and for continuing to advance their pending bill to help close our affordability gap for future extensions by providing up to $1.9 billion in additional pandemic relief.”

Murray and Cantwell previously helped Sound Transit to secure a $1.4 billion federal commitment for the Federal Way light rail extension, making the project possible. The senators were also instrumental in securing more than $1.2 billion in federal funding commitments for the Lynnwood Link extension project in 2018.

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