Key Senate subcommittee earmarks $75 million in FY 2004 light rail funding

Publish Date

Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., today secured $75 million for Central Link light rail in the Senate Transportation Appropriations Subcommittee's proposed FY 2004 spending plan.

"The Puget Sound region is grateful to Sen. Murray for moving us a major step closer to breaking ground in the near future," said King County Executive and Sound Transit Board Chairman Ron Sims. "It's great news for keeping our commuters and economy moving!"

"Anyone who has sat helplessly in a traffic jam owes Sen. Patty Murray a salute," said Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels, a member of the Sound Transit Board. "We need an alternative to gridlock, and light rail will give it to us. Let's start construction and put thousands of people to work."

"Sound Transit's light rail will not only give the region its first mass transit; its construction will provide more than 4,000 critically needed family-wage jobs," said Seattle City Council and Sound Transit Board member Richard McIver.

"Sen. Murray is a hero of the beleaguered Puget Sound commuter," said King County Council Member Cynthia Sullivan, chair of Sound Transit's Central Link Oversight Committee. "She's in the right place to make a difference as the ranking Democrat on the Transportation Appropriations Subcommittee, and she has strong ties with its chairman, Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.)."

"Sen. Shelby's support for Central Link reflects that building effective transportation solutions nationwide is a bipartisan priority," Sims said. "We're very grateful for his support of the project."

"Inclusion of this $75 million in the federal budget clearly shows the Senate's commitment to our community's light rail project," said King County Council and Sound Transit Board member Dwight Pelz. "Central Link light rail is another step closer to breaking ground."

In July, the Federal Transit Administration announced that following a 60-day congressional review it intends to execute a multi-year full funding grant agreement (FFGA) for Central Link. Sound Transit plans to break ground soon after the FFGA is executed, an action that will culminate more than two years of intensive review and votes of confidence by the FTA and U.S. Department of Transportation Inspector General.

The FY 2004 transportation appropriations currently under deliberation will determine the 2004 installment of the FFGA. The $75 million - an amount supported by the Bush Administration in its proposed FY 2004 budget - would honor Congress' historical track record of meeting funding commitments made in FFGAs.

A House-Senate conference committee is expected to determine the final funding amount before FY 2004 begins on Oct. 1. The Senate Transportation Appropriations Subcommittee plan adopted today will go before the full Appropriations Committee and then to the Senate floor. In the House, where senior Appropriations Committee Member Rep. Norm Dicks, D-Bremerton, has played a key role, the Committee adopted a FY 2004 plan that includes $15 million in funding for Central Link.

The FTA's strong endorsement of Central Link is based on numerous measurements of the system's cost-effectiveness, including its capacity for moving more than 16,000 people per hour and its projected daily ridership of 42,500 by 2020. Reaching 14 miles from downtown Seattle to South 154th Street, the Initial Segment has among the highest projected ridership levels of all the proposals currently pending in the federal New Starts process.

"Once Central Link is built, its popularity will validate the highest-possible ranking we have received from the FTA," Sims said. "Sound Transit's Tacoma Link light rail line has barely been open a week and we are already seeing extremely strong ridership."

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