Congressional conference committee sends strong signal of support by approving $50 million for Link light rail project in 2001

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A congressional House - Senate conference committee has recommended an annual appropriation of $57 million for Sound Transit in its fiscal year 2001 transportation appropriations budget, including $50 million for the Link light rail project. That is double the amount of last year's federal appropriation to the light rail project. The action, which still must be approved by the full Congress, closely follows the Federal Transit Administration's recommendation of a $500 million grant agreement for the Central Link light rail project. The grant agreement, which is currently in a 60-day review process in Congress, recommended an appropriation of $35 million for the Link project in 2001.

"This appropriation and the FTA's recommendation of our grant agreement are both strong signals of the confidence the federal government has in our light rail project," according to Sound Transit Board Chair Dave Earling, an Edmonds city councilmember. "Once again our Congressional delegation has delivered an excellent level of annual funding given that the grant agreement is not yet finalized, and it is one more indication that the feds consider this one of the premier mass transit projects in the nation."

The 2001 appropriation also designates $5 million to Sound Transit's Sounder commuter rail program, and $2 million to its ST Express bus program. Last year Sound Transit received a federal appropriation of $30 million, with $25 million dedicated to the light rail system. Including this appropriation, Sound Transit has received $159 million in federal discretionary funds, including $91 million for Link light rail. Funds received in the 2001 appropriation will be used to begin construction of the project, which is scheduled to get underway early next year.

Sound Transit is implementing Sound Move, a regional transit plan approved by voters in the Puget Sound region in 1996. Sound Transit is currently operating 13 limited-stop regional ST Express bus routes with five more scheduled to begin service within two years, and Sounder commuter rail service which inaugurated rush hour service between Tacoma and Seattle two weeks ago.

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Sound Transit plans, builds and operates regional transit systems and services to improve mobility for Central Puget Sound.