Federal Transit Administration finalizes $500 million grant agreement for central Link light rail

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U.S. Secretary of Transportation Rodney Slater has approved a $500 million full funding grant agreement for Sound Transit's central Link light rail project. Sound Transit officials were notified that the agreement had been finalized in a phone call from the Federal Transit Administration in Washington D.C. this

Last week, the Sound Transit Board voted to accept the federal funding agreement after revising its construction schedule and budget for the project. The agency also updated and refined its financial assumptions, indicating that the project is affordable without new taxes.

"This is great news for our region," said Sound Transit Board Chair Dave Earling. "This is the culmination of nearly four years of work and we truly appreciate the support and cooperation we've received from the FTA both in Washington and in the Region X office in Seattle."The FTA had intended to finalize the agreement earlier this week, but delayed action in order to respond to questions raised by the incoming chair of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Rep. Harold Rogers, R-Ky.
"We acknowledge that Chairman Rogers has raised some serious concerns," according to Snohomish County Executive Bob Drewel, who chairs the Sound Transit Board's government affairs task force. "We understand his concerns, and we are eager to work with the chairman and his staff to address them, including an independent assessment of the project's finances."

Drewel acknowledged the role of Washington state's congressional delegation in securing the grant agreement. "This would not have happened without the tireless efforts of our entire delegation, but I want to especially recognize Sen. Patty Murray and Rep. Norm Dicks for their steadfast support."

King County Councilmember Greg Nickels, chair of Sound Transit' Finance Committeee said that while the agreement represents a significant commitment on the part of the federal government, it is not a guarantee of federal appropriations.

"It is a significant step forward, but we recognize that we'll have to work very hard with our delegation to secure the annual appropriations from Congress under this agreement," Nickels said. "We need to demonstrate to our delegation, to chairman Rogers and the members of both the House and Senate appropriations committees - and to our constituents in the Puget Sound region - that this project is financially sound and cost-effective."

Approved by the region's voters in 1996, Sound Transit is implementing a system of regional transit services and improvements throughout the three-county central Puget Sound region. The 21-mile central Link project will run from SeaTac to Seattle's University District. In addition to central Link light rail, Sound Transit has already implemented Sounder commuter rail service between Tacoma and Seattle, and 13 of 18 planned routes for limited-stop ST Express bus service. Construction on the 1.6-mile Tacoma Link light rail line will get underway later this year.

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