Courtesy photo

Courtesy photo

State lawmakers push for final approval of Federal Way Link Extension funding

In a letter to Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao, the members advocate for an expeditious approval of federal money for light rail project.

Led by U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), Washington state’s Democratic congressional delegation, including Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and U.S. Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA 9th), sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao on Nov. 1 in support of a Capital Investment Grant (CIG) Full Funding Grant Agreement (FFGA) and a TIFIA loan for Sound Transit’s Federal Way Link Extension project.

This funding agreement represents a critical step toward making the Federal Way Link Extension project a reality, further bolstering Puget Sound’s expanding high-capacity transit system and delivering much needed light rail access to the citizens of Federal Way and the surrounding areas, according to a press release from Murray’s office. The project will provide an estimated 40,700 daily trips and save the average commuter approximately 30 minutes of travel time compared to driving.

“Puget Sound voters approved ballot measures in 1996, 2008 and most recently in 2016 to build a regional high-capacity transit system. 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,” the members wrote. “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 CIG program is the primary federal grant program to support transit investments in rapid rail, light rail, bus rapid transit, commuter rail, and ferries. As a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Sen. Murray helped secure a historic $2.644 billion for the CIG program in the FY19 spending bill.

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 FFGA approval being the final phase. It is imperative that the Federal Way Link Extension project receive FFGA 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 FFGA approval by Dec. 22, according to the press release.

If approved, the Federal Way Link Extension project follows the successful Lynwood Link Extension, another project that was funded by the CIG program with the backing of members of Washington State’s Democratic delegation. The lawmakers successfully pushed the Department of Transportation to move forward with the final funding grant agreement for Sound Transit’s Lynnwood Link light rail extension project in Snohomish County, which was executed in December 2018 and cemented a $1.2 billion commitment from the federal government to help fund the light rail expansion.

The Federal Way Link Extension will expand light rail 7.8 miles from Angle Lake, just south of Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, to Federal Way.

“The Federal Way Link Extension will also be a catalyst for an estimated $34 million in transitoriented development and an estimated $1.8 million in annual parking revenue,” the letter continues. “Recent, current and projected private-sector development near light rail stations in the City of SeaTac, at the northern end of the project, total $465 million. Another $680 million of overall public- and private-sector value capture has been identified in the Federal Way Link corridor.”

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