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Sound Transit advances engineering for Federal Way, Redmond light rail extensions

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Improved revenue forecast enables agency to move forward with preliminary engineering on Sound Transit 2 light rail extensions 

The Sound Transit Board of Directors today restored Sound Transit 2 funding for preliminary engineering on the Federal Way and Redmond Link extensions, giving staff the green light to move forward with further design on light rail extensions from Kent/Des Moines to the Federal Way Transit Center and from Overlake to downtown Redmond. 

"Extending light rail to Federal Way and downtown Redmond has remained a top priority for Sound Transit," said Sound Transit Board Chair and King County Executive Dow Constantine. "Restoring funding for the next phase of project design brings us another step closer to connecting more people to our growing regional mass transit system."

Voters approved funding for preliminary engineering for the Federal Way and Redmond Link extensions in the 2008 Sound Transit 2 (ST2) ballot measure. The 2007-2009 Great Recession wiped out $4.2 billion from projected ST2 tax revenues. In response, the Sound Transit Board kicked off an ongoing realignment process in 2010 to bring project plans in line with the lower revenue forecast. This included suspending some projects and project phases until funding could be identified. Preliminary engineering for the Federal Way and Redmond light rail extensions were among those projects suspended during the realignment.

Recent projections show the recession's cumulative impact on ST2 funding through 2023 will represent an approximate 26.8 percent reduction, improved from the earlier forecast of 29.7 percent. Under the current forecasts and advancement of plans for completing other ST2 projects, sufficient resources now exist to restore funding for preliminary engineering on the Federal Way and Redmond Link extensions, expediting the ability of Sound Transit to construct the extensions when voter approval and funding are secured. Staff will continue to closely monitor the financial plan and work to advance several other suspended projects, where possible. 

Update on the Federal Way Link Extension

Following realignment of the ST2 program, the Board determined that sufficient funding was available to move forward with planning and constructing a light rail extension from South 200th Street in the City of SeaTac to Kent/Des Moines. In 2012, the Board approved $24 million more to develop a shovel-ready plan for extending light rail to downtown Federal Way when more funding becomes available. 

Last July, the Board identified a preferred route and station locations for the project following publication of the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS). The Board is expected to select the project to built later this year after the Final EIS is published. Final design on the 2.5-mile segment to Kent/Des Moines begins in 2017, with service beginning in 2023. Final design and construction of the extension further south to the Federal Way Transit Center is a candidate project for potential inclusion in a Sound Transit 3 ballot measure this fall. Although the ST2 measure that voters adopted in 2008 approved funding for construction of light rail to South 272nd Street at the northern edge of Federal Way, current funding is only sufficient to reach Kent/Des Moines.

"When the recession hit, we worked hard to find ways to move planning work forward for getting light rail to Federal Way," said Sound Transit Boardmember and King County Councilmember Pete von Reichbauer. "The improved revenue picture means we are in the best position possible for extending Link to the heart of the city when more funding is secured."

Downtown Redmond Link Extension

The ST2 Plan also included environmental and preliminary engineering for a light rail extension from the Overlake Transit Center to downtown Redmond. Sound Transit completed environmental review and the Board selected the route and stations for the extension but suspended preliminary engineering when the Board realigned the ST2 program in response to the recession. The project established by the Board today will extend the East Link light rail line approximately 3.7 miles, from the Redmond Technology Center to downtown Redmond. Final design and construction of the extension is a candidate project for a Sound Transit 3 ballot measure.    

"This action will enable us to deliver light rail all the way to Downtown Redmond as soon as possible after we secure approval of construction funding," said Sound Transit Boardmember and Redmond Mayor John Marchione. "Expediting this project is important for giving more Redmond residents and employees a way to bypass traffic jams."