Seattle’s Lander Street Overpass project wins a $45 million federal grant, a step toward possible construction in 2018.

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Seattle’s long-awaited Lander Street Overpass has won a $45 million federal grant, sustaining the city’s momentum to build the five-lane span this decade.

The grant, announced Tuesday, covers most of the $55 million the city requested, and brings total money on hand to $100 million, for an estimated $140 million project in Sodo, just south of a container port and Safeco and CenturyLink fields. The remainder might be gleaned from city, state, port or BNSF Railway sources.

The overpass, a long-promoted remedy for traffic that stalls as trains move through Sodo, would have two vehicle lanes each direction plus a walk-bike lane, spanning two city blocks and four sets of rails.

About 11,000 vehicles a day cross the tracks at Lander, while 3,200 freight and passenger-rail cars travel the north-south line. The street is closed an average 4½ hours a day.

Some $20 million in seed money for Lander is included in the $930 million Move Seattle property-tax levy that voters approved last fall.

Tuesday’s award was announced by U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., a longtime enthusiast for ports and freight infrastructure, who created a national freight fund. Northwest freight traffic could double in 20 years, her staff says.

A figure like that presumes the ports of Seattle and Tacoma compete against the widened Panama Canal, and dock expansions in British Columbia.

Cantwell said the Lander overpass reduces the “last-mile issue,” where cargo from across the city, or across the country, can be stalled blocks from Elliott Bay. Washington is the nation’s most trade-dependent state.

“We’re seeing population growth and a 50 percent increase in the middle class outside the U.S.,” Cantwell said. “So that’s where the economic opportunity is.”

In addition, Sound Transit and the state are striving to increase Sounder and Amtrak Cascades passenger capacity.

Engineering for the Lander Street Overpass could be completed in 2017, and construction by 2018, said Jessica Murphy, project director for the Seattle Department of Transportation.

An additional $5 million will be awarded to Tukwila, to help widen Strander Boulevard where it crosses under the railway.

Nationwide, a total $700 million was awarded to 18 projects, out of 250 to 300 applications, Cantwell said.