Sound Transit ranks high nationally as Congress approves $54 million in federal funding for Sound Transit for FY 99

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Sound Transit is tied for receiving the sixth highest federal appropriation for "new starts" rail projects in the nation, and ranks highest among transit projects at its stage of development in the 1999 omnibus appropriation bill just approved by Congress. The budget legislation appropriated $54 million in federal funds for Sound Transit projects for federal fiscal year 1999, including $46 million in "new starts" funding for its Sounder commuter rail and Central Link light rail projects. The total appropriation is exactly triple the 1998 federal appropriation received by Sound Transit, and includes:  

  • $8 million to the Regional Express bus program to help fund the agency's bus fleet purchase. Regional Express will begin phasing in service on up to 20 new express bus routes next year and is buying 175 new buses for that service; 
  • $41 million for the Sounder Commuter Rail program to help fund the agency's passenger car and locomotive purchase. Sound Transit is buying 38 passenger cars and 6 locomotives - and commuter service will get underway between Seattle and Tacoma in December 1999;
  • $5 million for the Link light rail program to help fund the preliminary engineering and environmental work currently underway for the 24-mile central Link light rail line between SeaTac and Northgate. 

"This is great news, and confirms that this project is highly competitive in the federal funding arena," according to the chair of the Sound Transit Board Paul Miller, a member of the Tacoma City Council. "Sound Transit fared exceptionally well in competition with other rail projects around the nation - even projects that are under construction for which Congress reserves most of the funding. It indicates we will be even more competitive when we move into final design and construction."   

"This appropriation early in our project's development demonstrates that Sound Transit is definitely among the top transit programs nationally," said King County Councilmember Greg Nickels, a vice chair of the Sound Transit Board and chair of the Finance Committee. "Congress tends to look favorably on projects like ours that bring local dollars to the table, and we will continue to emphasize with federal officials that the voters of our region are willing to do their part."   

According to Edmonds City Councilmember Dave Earling, a vice chair of the Sound Transit Board and chair of the Public and Government Affairs Committee, the unified efforts of the state's congressional delegation was a major factor in securing the appropriation. "We greatly appreciate the hard work and support of the entire delegation. Sens. Slade Gorton and Patty Murray, both of whom served on the conference committee, have worked extremely hard this year to help us secure this funding. On the House side, Reps. Jennifer Dunn, Norm Dicks, Rick White, Linda Smith and Adam Smith all played major roles in representing this region in the House deliberations."  

With approval by the region's voters in 1996, Sound Transit is building a 24-mile Link light rail line connecting the cities of SeaTac, Tukwila and Seattle; a 1.6-mile downtown Tacoma Link light rail line, an 82-mile Sounder commuter rail system between Everett and Lakewood; and 20 new limited-stop Regional Express routes to serve the urban portions of King, Pierce and Snohomish counties.     

Ranking of 1999 "new starts" rail appropriations:  

1. New Jersey (two projects): $76 million  

2. Salt Lake City (two projects): $75 million  

3. Houston (two projects): $61.7 million  

4. Boston (three projects): $55.2 million  

5. Atlanta $52.1 million  

6. *Sound Transit (two projects): $46 million  

6. Los Angeles (two projects): $46 million  

7. Denver (two projects) $40.5 million  

8. San Francisco/BART $40 million  

9. St. Louis $35 million  

10. *Dallas (two projects) $28 million  

*Projects that do not yet have "Full Funding Grant Agreements" in place with the federal government.

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