Sen. Murray announces proposed funding for University Link light rail

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Sen. Murray today announced that the transportation funding bill passed by the Senate Appropriations Committee includes $80 million for current light rail construction and $15 million for extending light rail from downtown Seattle to the University of Washington.

The proposed $15 million is a very positive sign as Sen. Murray, the ranking Democratic member of the powerful transportation appropriations subcommittee, leads longer-term efforts to secure a $750 million full funding grant agreement (FFGA) for the University Link extension.

“We see this as an early down payment on expanding the regional system,” said Sound Transit Board Chair and Pierce County Executive John Ladenburg. “Securing $15 million at this relatively early stage in the process tells me the people with their hands on the purse strings believe the University Link is right on track. It also says Sen. Murray never stops working on behalf of the region's commuters.”

University Link is the only project in highly competitive New Starts funding process that has received the Federal Transit Administration’s highest-possible ranking. Earlier this month Sen. Murray led Acting U.S. Transportation Secretary Maria Cino on a tour of Sound Transit’s Beacon Hill light rail tunneling, advocating for federal support for starting University Link construction as soon as 2008.

“Sen. Murray and our congressional delegation were responsible for our first $500 million light rail grant. Thanks to the Senator, we couldn't be in a better position to get the second grant and break ground,” Ladenburg said.

Later this year a conference committee will meet to reconcile the Senate and House funding proposals. The proposed $80 million represents the FY 2007 installment of the $500 million multi-year FFGA for the Central Link project and is included in both the Senate and House legislation as well as the Bush Administration’s proposed FY 2007 budget. ¬The proposed $15 million is subject to negotiation through the conference committee process.

The 3.15-mile University Link extension will increase the light rail system’s ridership from 45,000 a day to more than 114,000. The project connects the three largest urban centers in the region: downtown Seattle, Capitol Hill and the University District. The project will offer much faster travel times for transit passengers than buses. Light rail will carry passengers from downtown to the University in 9 minutes instead of 25 and to Capitol Hill in 6 minutes instead of 14. Trips between Capitol Hill and the University District will take 3 minutes instead of 22.

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