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Extending Light Rail South of the Airport

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On Monday, October 31, Sound Transit submitted its application for a federal TIGER grant to construct light rail from Sea-Tac Airport to S. 200th Street, a critical move that begins the process of extending light rail to the south.  This extension was included in the Sound Transit 2 ballot measure in 2008, but the recession has most seriously affected revenues in the South King County Subarea, and this grant would make a big difference in being able to fund the project.

The Seattle area received funding for the Two-Way Mercer Street project in the first round of TIGER grants, and for the South Park Bridge in the second round.  We have been successful in the face of stiff competition because we have been able to develop regional unity around these grant applications, a key criteria for approval by the U.S. Department of Transportation.  The Sound Transit Board decided to pursue the S. 200th Street extension in the third round, and I asked the City to support this application instead of pursuing one of our own projects.  The Mayor and Council agreed that this would be the most promising project for taking the next steps on our regional transit system, and we agreed that that Seattle would not submit a competing application.

Instead Seattle and other local governments in our area united in endorsing the Sound Transit proposal.  While competition will be stiff for this 3rd round, we are hopeful that regional unity around this important project will give us the momentum we need to be one of the recipients.

The project would extend light rail south by approximately 2 miles from the airport station.  Sound Transit has about $350 million in regional dollars, and we are asking for $24 million from the federal government to complete the funding package.  There are a number of reasons why this project should compete well, in addition to the regional support:

  • It will create 2,600 multi-year construction jobs.
  • It will foster private sector development around the new transit center.
  • It will connect south County residents to 400,000 jobs around the region.
  • It serves an area with a high concentration of low income residents, many of whom are transit dependent.
  • It will serve an estimated 5400 daily boardings, improving the operation of the entire Puget Sound transportation system by taking that number of riders off the road.
  • It is shovel-ready, having already been through federal and state environmental approvals, and will be delivered using the accelerated design/build bid process.

Sound Transit continues to be a great regional partnership, and to move forward with light rail projects that will be economic and environmental assets to the region for our future.  The three boring machines constructing the tunnel for University Link are advancing at a steady pace, and are on track to complete the tunnel on time next year.  Plans for transit oriented development around the Capitol Hill station are moving forward with strong cooperation between the City, Sound Transit, and community leaders.  And the recently completed agreement with the City of Bellevue clears the way for Eastside Link to move into final design and construction, while initial planning continues on the northern extension to Northgate and Lynnwood.  Getting the South 200th Street Extension funded will be another step towards a full regional system, and this TIGER grant application is another great example of the region pulling together to make transit successful.

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