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Sound Transit submits application for key federal grant to support Lynnwood light rail extension

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Multi-year, $1.17 billion Federal Transit Administration grant critical to ensuring delivery of light rail to Snohomish County by 2024

The Sound Transit Board yesterday approved submission of an application for a $1.17 billion grant for the Lynnwood Link Extension, moving toward breaking ground in 2018 and extending light rail service to Snohomish County residents in 2024. 

"This next step in bringing Link Light Rail to Snohomish County means that we are keeping our word to our residents," said Sound Transit Board Chair and Snohomish County Executive Dave Somers. "Worsening congestion on our freeways has turned daily commuting into a long slog. We need to move now to secure federal funding for light rail so that everyone in the region has the option of frequent, dependable light rail service."

"Last year, voters stepped up and passed billions of dollars in local taxes for critical transit expansions that, like Lynnwood Link, will serve a rapidly growing region," said Sound Transit Chief Executive Officer Peter Rogoff. "It's only right that this project receive full federal support, and we're working closely with the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) and our Congressional delegation to obtain this grant."

The submission of the Full Funding Grant Agreement (FFGA) application comes after Sound Transit successfully completed a series of steps required by the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) Capital Investment Grant (CIG) program to establish funding eligibility for the project. The first step was FTA approval for entry into project development in December 2013. The second step was achieving an FTA New Starts rating of "Medium-High" in the Annual FTA New Starts Report (the second highest rating), followed by the third step of receiving FTA approval into Engineering in February 2016. The fourth step was congressional approval in May 2016 of $100 million in Federal Fiscal Year 2017 FFGA funding.

While working to secure the grant, Sound Transit is continuing with a comprehensive value engineering effort to reduce earlier design project cost estimates as a result of a booming local construction market and rising costs in real estate, materials and skilled labor. After working with the cities of Lynnwood, Shoreline, Mountlake Terrace and Seattle to analyze more than 240 cost-savings ideas that would not reduce project scope, the agency has identified a potential $200 million of cost reductions to advance to 90 percent design. Cost-saving measures include modifying the design of the elevated guideway, relocating the 184th Street parking garage from the west to east side of Interstate 5, and reducing the height or retaining walls along the alignment. Final design of major project elements is slated to be complete in early 2019.

To keep the project competitive for federal funding and execution of a grant award in the third quarter of 2018, Sound Transit's application is based on earlier, 60 percent designs estimating a capital cost of $2.9 billion. Including financing costs, the application will reflect a total project cost estimate of $3.07 billion. Sound Transit will continue analyzing other opportunities to maximize savings, where possible, during 90 percent design work.

Federal transportation law outlines a multi-year, multi-step process that proposed transit construction projects must undergo to be eligible for and receive discretionary Capital Investment Grant program funding (also called "New Starts" funding) from the FTA. The New Starts grant program is the Federal Government's primary financial resource for supporting transit capital projects that are locally planned, implemented, and operated.  

The New Starts grant program is unlike most others in government. Rather than an annual call for applications and selection of awardees by the FTA, the law requires that projects seeking New Starts funding complete a series of steps, over several years, to be eligible for funding. Once those requirements are completed, the grantee is eligible to apply for and execute an FFGA with the FTA. 

Sound Transit has completed necessary steps in the funding process and is now eligible to prepare and formally submit the FFGA application package. Once the FTA has completed its review of the project, and negotiated and prepared the FFGA with Sound Transit, the application package must be reviewed and approved by the FTA, the United States Department of Transportation (USDOT), and other members of the Trump Administration. Once federal agency concurrences are received, federal law requires the FFGA to undergo a 30-day congressional notification period, after which the FTA and Sound Transit may sign the FFGA. 

Trains on the 8.5-mile light rail extension from Northgate to the Lynnwood Transit will serve four stations along the route at Northeast 145th Street, Northeast 185th Street, the Mountlake Terrace Transit Center at 236th Street Southwest, and the Lynnwood Transit Center at 48th Avenue West. Demolition and utility relocation work is scheduled to begin mid-2018, with major construction activities beginning in 2019. 

Commuters from the Lynnwood Transit Center will enjoy 13-minute rides to Northgate Mall, 18-minute rides to the University District, 27-minute rides to downtown Seattle and 60-minute rides to Sea-Tac Airport. Trains from Lynnwood will also serve the eastside and reach downtown Bellevue in 51 minutes and the Overlake Transit Center in 59 minutes from the Lynnwood Transit Center. 

More information on the Lynnwood Link Extension is available at

By 2021, Sound Transit will expand light rail to the U District, Roosevelt and Northgate. In 2023 trains will reach Mercer Island, Bellevue and Overlake/Redmond. Next up will be the extension of light rail to Shoreline, Mountlake Terrace, Lynnwood, Kent/Des Moines, Federal Way and downtown Redmond in 2024. From there, continuing expansions will focus on Tacoma, West Seattle, Ballard, Everett, South Kirkland and Issaquah, forming a 116-mile regional system by 2041.

The FFGA estimate includes the project's proportionate cost share of the eastside Operations and Maintenance Facility and the agency's light rail vehicle fleet expansion project.