Congressman Adam Smith and King County Council Member Pete von Reichbauer sign the $790 million grant agreement for the Federal Way light rail link extension project at Angle Lake Staton in SeaTac, WA. Photo courtesy of Sound Transit.

Congressman Adam Smith and King County Council Member Pete von Reichbauer sign the $790 million grant agreement for the Federal Way light rail link extension project at Angle Lake Staton in SeaTac, WA. Photo courtesy of Sound Transit.

FTA awards $790 million grant for Federal Way, Kent light rail extension.

Construction to start in 2020, be completed in 2024

Acting Federal Transit Administrator K. Jane Williams and Congressman Adam Smith joined Sound Transit representatives and other officials at the Angle Lake Station in SeaTac on Wednesday to mark the award of a $790 million Full Funding Grant Agreement for the Federal Way Link Extension project.

“Commuters in Seattle can now look forward to a one seat ride between South King County, Sea-Tac Airport, downtown Seattle and the University of Washington,” Williams said in a Sound Transit news release about the Jan. 22 event. “This extension will improve access to jobs, health care, educational opportunities and other destinations in the Puget Sound region.”

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 last fall, and construction is set to begin in early 2020 and be completed in December 2024, according to Sound Transit. Parking garages at the three sites will provide a total of 2,000 spots.

“The Federal Way Link Extension Project will help connect thousands of passengers daily along the South King County corridor, relieving congestion and improving access to travel for all,” Smith said. “Many cities and stakeholders have worked tirelessly on the project, one that marks a major step towards building a more efficient and effective regional transit system that will benefit local communities. Federal funding for the extension project’s construction will be invaluable to the region – as the regional economy continues to grow and expand, I continue to wholeheartedly support these efforts to improve access to transportation for commuting and leisure.”

“Due to increased congestion in South King County as a result of population growth, travel times for residents continue to rise,” said Dave Upthegrove, a Sound Transit Board member and King County Council member. “With the federal funding for the Federal Way Link extension now secured, South King County will soon have relief from traffic gridlock.”

The critical grant and a $629.5 million Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) loan from the U.S. Department of Transportation, finalized last month, will support Sound Transit in launching construction of the light rail extension early this year. In advance of the FFGA approval, Congress approved $100 million in FY 2019 Capital Investment Grant funding that represents the first installment of the grant.

The $629.5 million TIFIA loan represents the fourth and final loan under Sound Transit’s $1.99 billion TIFIA Master Credit Agreement which was 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.

The total cost of the Federal Way Link Extension is an estimated $3.1 billion with federal grants covering about 25 percent of the cost, according to Sound Transit. About $1.5 billion will come from Sound Transit dedicated sales, rental car, motor vehicle excise and property tax revenues. Another $629 million is from the federal loan to be repaid by Sound Transit tax revenues and about $145 million is covered by Sound Transit bond proceeds repaid by tax revenues.

“Sound Transit’s success securing federal funding for our light rail expansion projects is a testament to the steadfast support of our congressional delegation and our strong partnership with the Department of Transportation and the Federal Transit Administration,” said Sound Transit CEO Peter Rogoff. “With the help of these Federal Grant and loan funds, within the next five years, our region will enjoy a true traffic-free reliable rail network between Federal Way, SeaTac Airport, Downtown Seattle, Northgate, Lynnwood, Mercer Island Bellevue and Redmond. We are grateful to Secretary (Elaine) Chao, Administrator Williams and the entire DOT team for partnering with us to make this happen.”

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.

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