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FTA Administrator Nuria Fernandez gestures while speaking to the Sound Transit executive leadership team.
Media Caption
FTA Administrator Nuria Fernandez speaking with the Sound Transit executive leadership team.

Fighting climate change and advancing equity

Talking Sound Transit with FTA Administrator Nuria Fernandez

Publish Date

On Tuesday, April 19, we welcomed Federal Transit Administrator Nuria Fernandez for a visit to Sound Transit.

The honor followed her participation in Community Transit’s groundbreaking on the exciting new Swift Orange Line and preceded President Biden’s scheduled Earth Day visit to Seattle on Friday.

Fernandez sat down with the agency’s senior leaders to discuss the biggest transit expansion project in the country—ours!

Link light rail service will more than double in the next few years, reaching the Eastside, Lynnwood, Federal Way and Redmond.

In later years the system will nearly double again while we introduce new Stride bus rapid transit service and gear up for Sounder expansions.

These investments would not be possible without Sound Transit’s strong partnership with the Federal Transit Administration and the Biden Administration.

Administrator Fernandez heard the agency’s appreciation for the approximately $2 billion in grant support that’s fueling current projects, and for President Biden’s proposal to speed up existing grants.

By completing those grants sooner, the President’s proposed FY2023 budget would create more than $40 million savings that Sound Transit could apply to further expansions, like getting light rail to Tacoma, West Seattle, Ballard and Everett.

Outgoing Sound Transit CEO Peter Rogoff and upcoming interim CEO Brooke Belman led the rest of the team in voicing appreciation to Administrator Fernandez and the FTA for their powerful leadership and support of Sound Transit’s work, which also relies on the dedication of the region’s congressional delegation.

Their conversation included frank discussions of challenges, including project delays following the recent concrete delivery strike and other factors, as well as difficult market conditions facing projects across the region and country.

It also focused on some of the accomplishments that make Sound Transit unique—and uniquely supportive of Biden Administration priorities.

​  FTA Administrator Nuria Fernandez and members of the Sound Transit executive leadership team share a laugh.  ​
​ FTA Administrator Fernandez and members of the Sound Transit executive leadership team share a laugh. ​

People, planet and prosperity

As Fernandez and Sound Transit staff discussed in their meeting, local and federal transit investments aren’t just about moving people from Point A to Point B. They also reflect a shared belief in public transit as a transformative tool that advances social equity and protects our planet.

While we expand our network and prioritize communities that rely on transit the most—including those who’ve been historically underserved—we’re also working to prevent displacement when that new service opens and do our part to reverse our region’s affordable housing crisis.

Sound Transit’s industry-leading equitable transit-oriented development (TOD) program is tasked with taking properties we no longer need after we complete transit construction and finding ways to use them to serve each respective community’s needs, whether that means affordable housing, daycares, services or space for retailers or offices. 

Here are some higlights of the program:

  • We’re currently planning major TOD projects in Seattle, Kent, Redmond, Lynnwood and Federal Way. These will not only shape each station area, but also provide housing, jobs and services just steps from transit, increasing public access to all these opportunities.
  • More than 2,500 housing units are currently in design, under construction or already completed.
  • More than 1,600 of those units are affordable housing.

And the Biden Administration’s priorities aren’t just reflected in the end products of Sound Transit’s investments, but in the enormous benefits that come about during the process of building them.

Jonté Robinson, Sound Transit’s Chief Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Officer, highlighted the agency’s work to ensure that construction dollars flow not only to large firms but to disadvantaged business enterprises.

While Sound Transit set out with a goal of ensuring more than 16% of our dollars support these firms, we’ve far exceeded that goal by driving the participation up to 30.5%.

Leslie Jones, Sound Transit’s Chief Business & Labor Compliance Officer, shared success stories from the agency’s programs to ensure a diverse workforce—and one that keeps expanding to meet the region’s rising demand for construction talent.

Of the more than 17 million hours worked to date on Sound Transit’s 18 active projects, people of color contributed more than 32%. Women performed nearly 7% of work hours—more than double the national average.

We’re also especially proud to have attained the agency’s goal for 20% of work to be completed by apprentices—the next generation of trades professionals who will power our region’s progress.

Robinson also reviewed the agency’s ongoing work to become an anti-racist organization.

After developing an initial five-year anti-racist strategy, Sound Transit’s Office of Civil Rights, Equity and Inclusion has been leading the process to engage employees agencywide in developing guiding principles and shared meaning to guide the work.

Robinson spoke candidly about how authentic organizational culture transformation to meaningfully and effectively address institutional and systemic racism will take time.

There is no "quick fix" or a finish line, and this will require introspection, accountability and commitment from all of us. 

Building for a sustainable future

As Seattle prepares to welcome President Biden for Earth Day, we’re especially proud of the agency’s work to address climate change.

In 2020, Link became the first major light rail system in the country to run on 100% carbon-free electricity.

And before the pandemic, Sound Transit’s services displaced 370,000 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions every year. That’s equivalent to a reduction of 44 million gallons of gasoline, or six times the agency’s operational greenhouse gas emissions.

We’ll keep building and improving on these accomplishments as we work to transform our region and continue cultivating strong federal partnerships.


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