Members of Washington’s congressional delegation announced Monday actions by the U.S. Department of Transportation to award a $790 million grant and $629 million low-interest loan to enable Sound Transit to start building light rail from SeaTac through Kent to Federal Way early next year.
The Federal Transit Administration on Dec. 13 transmitted to Congress a $790 million Full Funding Grant Agreement (FFGA) for Sound Transit’s Federal Way Link Extension, starting a 30-day notification period. The action highlights that the administration intends to execute the grant once the period is complete.
Also last week, the U.S. Department of Transportation formally notified Congress of its intent to close a $629.5 million Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) loan for the project. This represents the fourth and final loan under a $1.99 billion TIFIA Master Credit Agreement which Sound Transit signed with USDOT’s Build America Bureau at the end of 2016. The agreement will save regional taxpayers between $200 and $300 million in borrowing costs over the life of the bonds.
“Securing this federal funding enables us to fulfill our promise of delivering regional light rail to the residents of South King County,” said John Marchione, Sound Transit Board chair and Redmond mayor, in a news release . “The tireless advocacy of our congressional delegation was instrumental in completing this vital step to transform people’s commutes and build a more prosperous future for the region.”
The total cost of the project is an estimated $3.1 billion with federal grants covering about 25 percent of the cost. About $1.5 billion will come from Sound Transit dedicated sales, rental car, motor vehicle excise and property tax revenues. Another $629 million is through a loan to be repaid by Sound Transit tax revenues and about $145 million is covered by Sound Transit bond proceeds repaid by tax revenues.
“This is exciting news for South Sound commuters looking to get relief from ever-increasing congestion,” said Sound Transit Board member and King County Executive Dow Constantine. “With major construction on Federal Way Link starting in the new year, this announcement means South King County will soon join a vast regional light rail network connecting all of the Central Puget Sound.”
“It takes forever to travel to and from South King County because of worsening traffic jams,” said Sound Transit and King County Councilmember Dave Upthegrove. “Thanks to this federal funding for the light rail project, an option to escape traffic gridlock in South King County is on the way.”
“A year ago, Sound Transit secured a $1.2 billion FFGA grant for Lynnwood Link. Now, we have secured a commitment from the administration to also fund Federal Way Link thanks to the persistent efforts of our congressional delegation,” said Sound Transit CEO Peter Rogoff.
“With two new stations in Kent, the Federal Way Link Extension will provide additional transportation options for the region,” said Kent Mayor Dana Ralph. “The project will also help implement the revitalization for Kent’s West Hill as envisioned by Kent’s Midway Subarea Plan.”
In advance of the FFGA approval, Congress approved $100 million in FY 2019 Capital Investment Grant funding that will represent the first installment of the grant.
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 at the Federal Way Transit Center. Demolition and utility relocation work began this fall, and construction is set to begin in early 2020. The light rail extension is expected to open in late 2024.
By 2021, Sound Transit will expand light rail to the U District, Roosevelt and Northgate. In 2022, Tacoma Link will expand to the Hilltop neighborhood. In 2023 trains will reach Mercer Island, Bellevue and the Overlake area. In addition to the Federal Way Link Extension, 2024 will bring the opening of 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.