Washington state’s Democratic congressional delegation sent a letter Monday to U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao in support of funding for a federal grant and loan to Sound Transit for the Federal Way Link Light Rail extension project.
Earlier this year, the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) had allocated $100 million in Capital Investment Grant (CIG) funding for the project. The delegation on Monday called for final approval of this funding. The funding sets the project on the path to a full funding grant agreement for the project — an estimated $790 million, which is typically paid out over a number of years.
“Puget Sound voters approved ballot measures in 1996, 2008 and most recently in 2016 to build a regional high-capacity transit system,” the members wrote. “As that system comes on line, our constituents are consistently choosing Sound Transit’s alternatives to escape gridlock and traffic, and the Puget Sound region continues to boast the nation’s fastest-growing transit ridership. As Sound Transit continues striving to establish effective high-capacity transit options, the Federal Way Link Extension project is a crucial next step in decreasing commute times and reducing traffic congestion throughout the Puget Sound region.”
The Federal Way link project is a 7.8-mile light rail extension from the Angle Lake station through the cities of SeaTac, Des Moines, Kent and Federal Way, and includes three stations. Construction is scheduled to start next year and the line is expected to open in 2024.
The total cost of the project is $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.
The project will provide an estimated 40,700 daily trips and save the average commuter approximately 30 minutes of travel time compared to driving, according to Sound Transit.
In order to secure the vital CIG funding for the Federal Way Link Extension, the project has had to pass through several phases of approval by the Department of Transportation, with a full funding grant approval being the final phase. It is imperative that the project receive the grant approval before the end of the year, as the project has also secured a low-interest Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) loan, contingent on the grant approval by Dec. 22.