People check out one of the new light rail vehicles in June at the Operations and Maintenance Facility in Seattle. Courtesy Photo, Sound Transit

People check out one of the new light rail vehicles in June at the Operations and Maintenance Facility in Seattle. Courtesy Photo, Sound Transit

Federal Way light rail extension gets $100 million federal grant

Project to go through Kent from SeaTac

Sound Transit will receive a $100 million grant this year from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Transit Administration to help pay for the extension of light rail from SeaTac through Kent to Federal Way.

Funding is provided through FTA’s Capital Investment Grants (CIG) Program. 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.

“Reducing congestion on the busy I-5 corridor and strengthening public transit options in King County is a win for our environment and for families, students and workers throughout Puget Sound — and I’m thrilled to see these major investments flow to infrastructure priorities in Washington state,” said U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., in a press release. “While this ‘down payment’ is a positive sign that the federal government will be at the table to help our local leaders see this critical project through, we must all continue working to ensure the final funding agreement gets over the finish line—and I intend to keep doing my part as a voice for our state in the Senate to ensure that happens.”

A light rail extension project in Phoenix and subway project in Los Angeles also received $100 million each.

“These federal grants to Arizona, California and Washington will improve mobility and the quality of life for those who depend on public transit every day,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao in a news release Tuesday that announced the grants.

The CIG Program provides funding for major transit infrastructure capital investments nationwide. Projects accepted into the program must go through a multi-year, multi-step process according to requirements in law to be eligible for consideration to receive program funds.

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 Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) loan is part of Sound Transit’s TIFIA master credit agreement with the FTA, under which Sound Transit became the first transit agency in the nation to enter into an agreement covering multiple projects. The TIFIA loans save local taxpayers money by granting Sound Transit access to financing with very low interest rates, according to a Sound Transit news release.

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