Federal government gives major green light to Central Link light rail project

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The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) today gave Sound Transit permission to complete Final Design of the revised portions of the Central Link light rail alignment and released $50 million in federal funding for construction of the initial segment of the system. Sound Transit Board Chair Ron Sims received the good news from U.S. Senator Patty Murray this afternoon.

"This is a crystal clear signal from the federal government that Sound Transit is on track for building Central Link light rail. It means we're ready to put our federal tax dollars to work on transportation solutions here at home," Sims said. "Senator Murray has done an incredible job bringing necessary federal funding back to our region."

The appropriation was approved for FY2001 but was placed on hold after the U.S. Department of Transportation Inspector General recommended that it should be held pending answers to questions about the project's viability. The $50 million appropriation, which requires no further authorizing actions, was released following Sound Transit's work with the FTA to demonstrate that it has met federal requirements.

"The release of this appropriation means that Sound Transit has done its due diligence in reaching out to the community and making sure we have a light rail project that works for this region," Sims said. "We'll continue to work with our Congressional delegation and the FTA to secure the full $500 million grant for this project."

In early July Sound Transit submitted its draft application to the FTA for a $500 million grant that will make up about one-quarter of the $2.07 billion capital cost of the initial light rail segment, with local revenues covering the remainder. Final Design authority for the entire initial segment of Central Link is a prerequisite for the full federal grant.

Over the next several weeks, Sound Transit will continue working with the local (Region X) FTA office to refine the grant application. The U.S. Department of Transportation and U.S. Congress will also review the project.

The initial segment of Central Link light rail will connect with local and regional bus service and with Sounder commuter rail service. The line, which is projected to carry approximately 42,500 riders daily by 2020, will run from downtown Seattle to S. 154th in Tukwila with shuttle service to SeaTac Airport. It is the first part of a light rail system that should eventually carry nearly 150,000 riders a day along the I-5 corridor between north Seattle and SeaTac, the most congested stretch of highway in the state.

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