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Sound Transit board approves 'shovel ready' money for Federal Way light rail

With the proposed amendment to Sound Transit
With the proposed amendment to Sound Transit's budget, the additional $24 million would move the city forward in prepping for light rail construction — specifically, between South 200th Street to the Federal Way Transit Center, located 7.6 miles away near South 320th Street.
— image credit: Courtesy of Sound Transit

Mirror staff reports:

The Sound Transit board of directors approved a nearly $24 million budget amendment to create a shovel-ready plan for bringing light rail to Federal Way.

Passed unanimously by the board on Feb. 23, the amendment was proposed Feb. 6 by King County Councilman Pete von Reichbauer. The money will help fund the necessary studies, such as environmental impacts and engineering reviews, to prepare Federal Way for receiving federal or state grant money to build light rail.

Last spring, Sound Transit delayed the extension of light rail to Federal Way until at least 2040, citing a 31 percent shortfall (more than $850 million) in tax revenue from South King County.

In 2008, voters approved the ST2 plan to build light rail to South 272nd Street, linking the city with Seattle and the airport. According to the original plan, Federal Way was supposed to see a station at South 272nd Street by 2023.

The amendment will help fund a study for extending light rail from South 200th Street, past South 272nd Street and on to the Federal Way Transit Center on 20th Avenue South in downtown Federal Way. The plan will provide a better idea of construction costs and logistics for light rail.

“Sound Transit has never stopped working to find a way to get light rail to Federal Way," said von Reichbauer in a prepared statement. "This amendment calls for acting on our commitment by moving forward immediately with the engineering and environmental review needed to get the project shovel-ready. While we develop a specific route and cost estimate, we will work with any and all partners to meet the challenge of funding construction.”

Timeline

The ultimate goal for Sound Transit is to eventually connect the King County system with Tacoma. State legislation or additional authority from voters would be required to move forward with construction south of South 272nd Street.

Following the 2011 announcement of light rail's delay to Federal Way, the city and Sound Transit have been at odds over finding a solution for the taxpayer-approved project. Federal Way elected leaders have publicly thanked von Reichbauer and other regional lawmakers for the shovel-ready amendment.

Planning for the extension will begin with an alternatives analysis this summer, according to Sound Transit. Public workshops will take place this fall. In summer 2013, there will be a series of open houses along with development of an environmental impact study (EIS). A final EIS review process is slated for 2015. Final design for the segment between S. 200th Street and Kent/Des Moines is scheduled to be completed by 2019, with construction beginning that same year. Testing would begin in late 2022 with service to Kent/Des Moines starting in 2023. Grant and other funding must be secured to build an extension south of Kent/Des Moines.

Learn more

Click here to read more about the light rail controversy in Federal Way.

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