FTA gives environmental clearance for North Link light rail routes

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The Federal Transit Administration has issued a significant decision affirming Sound Transit's environmental studies and planning, fulfilling a key requirement for extending light rail further northward.

The federal record of decision affirms the findings of Sound Transit's North Link Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement and culminates an environmental review that began in 2001. The record of decision is particularly important for Sound Transit's current efforts to prepare for construction of the 3.15-mile University Link extension starting in 2008, connecting Downtown Seattle and the University of Washington, with stations at Capitol Hill and on the UW campus near Husky Stadium.

"The Federal Transit Administration's sign-off on the quality of our environmental work represents an important green light for moving forward," said Sound Transit Board Chair and Pierce County Executive John Ladenburg. "We're getting closer to the University all the time."

In 2005 the University Link project received the Federal Transit Administration's highest-possible ranking in the competitive process for securing the federal funds that Sound Transit is seeking to build the project with existing local taxes. The project will extend the 15.6-mile segment that will open in 2009 between Downtown Seattle and the Airport to 18.8 miles. Located entirely within a tunnel, University Link will serve the major population and economic centers of Capitol Hill and the University of Washington, more than doubling the system's projected 2030 ridership level to 114,000 daily boardings.

In addition to University Link, the North Link route affirmed by the record of decision extends all the way from Downtown Seattle to Northgate. Funding for extending light rail between the UW and Northgate is proposed for inclusion in a 2007 regional roads and transit ballot measure.

"How we respond to the need for more transportation capacity will determine how our communities fare as the region's population leaps 1.2 million by 2030," Ladenburg said. "We still plan to use existing taxes and federal funds to build University Link as quickly as possible. We will also work closely with the Regional Transportation Investment District to present voters with the road and transit expansions that will make the biggest difference."

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