Senator Murray includes $30 million for University Link in key Senate bill

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Sound Transit today lauded Washington Sen. Patty Murray for her efforts to include $30 million for Sound Transit’s University Link light rail project in a key Senate funding bill.  

“Our Senator comes through again,” said Sound Transit Board Chairman and Pierce County Executive John Ladenburg. “When commuters jump on the quick, quiet and efficient U-Link, they should thank Patty Murray.” 

The funding bill also includes a $70 million installment of Sound Transit’s $500 million full funding grant agreement for the initial Link light rail segment from downtown Seattle to Tukwila that is more than 70 percent complete.  The line from downtown to Tukwila is scheduled to open for service in July, 2009, with the final leg from Tukwila into Sea-Tac International Airport to open by December, 2009.  

“This is great step forward for Sound Transit, University Link, and our entire region,” Murray said.  “By extending light rail north to the University, we're giving residents more transportation options to address the congestion on our roads and giving people an environmentally-friendly alternative to driving.” 

Murray used her position as Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies to add the funding to the Fiscal Year 2008 appropriations bill that funds the federal Departments of Transportation, and Housing and Urban Development.  The bill passed the subcommittee today and will go before the full Senate Appropriations Committee on Thursday (7/12).  

In his February budget, President Bush proposed $10 million for University Link.  Murray maintained the President's funding and then added another $20 million, bringing the total funding to $30 million for FY 2008.  The funding will help Sound Transit complete the final design and continue with property acquisitions on the 3.15-mile light rail extension from downtown Seattle to the University of Washington with a stop on Capitol Hill. Construction could begin by the end of 2008. 

The proposed $30 million would apply against the $750 million Full Funding Grant Sound Transit is seeking for University Link. The $1.6 billion University Link project will be funded by the federal grant and existing local tax dollars.  University Link has received the Federal Transit Administration’s highest-possible rating in the competitive federal New Starts funding process.  

When University Link is completed, Sound Transit will have built almost 19 miles of light rail between the University and the airport with the taxes that regional voters approved in 1996.  

Located entirely underground, the University Link extension will travel east in a tunnel to a Capitol Hill station located east of Broadway near Seattle Central Community College. From there the line continues north, crossing under the Lake Washington Ship Canal’s Montlake Cut to a station near Husky Stadium on the University of Washington campus. 

The projected 2020 daily ridership for the 15.6-mile light rail segment that is currently under construction between downtown Seattle and the airport is 45,200. The University Link project alone is projected to increase the regional light rail system’s 2030 ridership to about 114,000 a day.  

This November voters will have the opportunity to approve further light rail extensions to the north, east and south as part of the regional Roads & Transit ballot measure. The plan would expand light rail across a regional system stretching more than 70 miles, adding fast, frequent and reliable service to the Bellevue, Redmond, Mercer Island, Northgate, Shoreline, Mountlake Terrace, Lynnwood, Alderwood, 164th St./Ash Way, Des Moines, Federal Way and Tacoma areas. 

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Sound Transit’s regional network of express buses, commuter rail, light rail and transit facilities connects communities in King, Pierce and Snohomish counties.