Seven future transit lines in Washington — including the light-rail corridor from Lynnwood to Northgate — could lose their anticipated federal funding under the president’s budget proposal.
As many as seven transit lines in Washington state — including the light-rail corridor from Lynnwood to Northgate — are at risk of losing their anticipated federal funding under President Trump’s 2018 budget proposal released Thursday.
The cuts would apply to at least 54 capital projects around the country that are in the pipeline for proposed grants, and in some cases are already approved by the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) for final engineering.
Trump’s “America First” budget blueprint would halt FTA grants except for projects that already have signed grant agreements for construction money. Sound Transit is scheduled to sign such a contract for the Lynnwood light-rail extension in mid-2018.
Washington transit in jeopardy?
President Donald Trump’s proposed federal budget would halt new national transit grants. Seven projects here are in the program.
• Lynnwood Link light-rail line, from Lynnwood to Northgate, $1.2 billion grant.
• The Angle Lake-Federal Way light-rail line, $499 million grant.
• The Swift 2 bus-rapid transit line, a Community Transit route through the Canyon Park, Mill Creek, South Everett and Paine Field areas, $50 million grant.
• Spokane Transit’s Central City Line bus-rapid transit, a six-mile east-west route through downtown, $54 million grant.
• The Central City Connector streetcar extension on Seattle’s First Avenue, $75 million grant.
• Madison Street bus-rapid transit in Seattle, $61.2 million grant.
• Tacoma Link light-rail extension west of downtown, $75 million grant.
Sources: Federal Transit Administration and local transit agency online profiles
“Future investments in new transit projects would be funded by the localities that use and benefit from these localized projects,” the proposal says.
Thursday’s budget outline is the first of many steps before Congress approves a final transportation budget. How strictly Congress will follow the plan remains to be seen.
Trump’s proposal would eliminate a $1.17 billion federal contribution that Sound Transit counted on to cover half the light-rail line between Northgate and Lynnwood, which was approved by voters in 2008 and scheduled to open in 2023, the agency says.
“A little bit of a kick to the gut this morning,” was how Sound Transit CEO Peter Rogoff described the news to state lawmakers.
The Lynnwood route includes stops at Mountlake Terrace, Shoreline and Jackson Park to serve 67,000 daily riders. Lynnwood Station offers many ways to catch a train with its bus terminal, park-and-ride garage, two trails and vast lots to build housing, shops or offices.
Trump’s budget would also thwart a potential $499 million grant to help build a $1.9 billion south-end line from Angle Lake Station to Federal Way by 2024.
A downtown Seattle streetcar extension and a RapidRide bus line on Madison Street also haven’t secured final FTA grant contracts.
However, the streetcar did make the 2017 Obama budget, while the Trump proposal pertains to 2018, so it isn’t “directly impacted” by Thursday’s news, said Andrew Glass Hastings, transit director for the Seattle Department of Transportation.
“It is in the hands of Congress,” he said.
More on the president’s budget proposalPresident Donald Trump’s $1.15 trillion spending plan envisions deep cuts to many government programs including those affecting Washington state.
- Trump budget would withhold money for 7 transit projects in state
- No Miró, no Picasso: How Trump’s proposal to kill NEA would hurt Seattle
- Trump budget could mean major changes in Washington, from housing and schools to military
- UW, Fred Hutch slam Trump’s proposed budget, calling it ‘major step backward’ and ‘indefensible
- Winners and losers on national level in Trump’s first budget plan
- Presidential budgets rarely get approved
U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, said via email:
“Investing in transportation infrastructure, especially in the fast-growing Puget Sound, is incredibly important to safety, efficiency and regional economic growth. To see the President just zero out programs and try to cut off project funding demonstrates this Administration’s complete disregard for working families in Washington state and in communities across this country.”
Legally, last fall’s $54 billion Sound Transit 3 ballot measure, which raises $28 billion in new property, sales and car-tab taxes through 2041, can be used to fill such gaps, including for the previously approved Lynnwood line. But doing so would reduce the cash flow to build ST3 rail extensions, leading to delays or higher debt, the agency predicted.
“We’re going to deliver light rail to Lynnwood,” Rogoff told lawmakers. “We’re going to work really hard to figure out how we deal with the financial penalties to do that.”
Thursday’s proposal seems to confirm concerns among transit supporters that Republicans under the Trump administration may slash funding. Rogoff downplayed such fears last November, even while rushing to lock down cheap bond and loan financing.
“We never imagined that the federal government would completely walk away from the table,” Rogoff said.
The agency’s ST2-3 combined financial plan assumes $7.7 billion in federal grants for rail and bus projects through 2041, including Lynnwood and Federal Way.
Critics of such federal grants have argued they steer money to ineffective projects that states are unwilling to fund themselves, or that federal oversight is weak.
Trump has suggested that private investments and public-private partnerships ought to fund $1 trillion in infrastructure projects.
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The TIGER infrastructure program, created by Murray in 2009, would also be phased out in Trump’s plan. Locally, the new Mercer Street and the South Park Bridge replacement were built partly with TIGER money.
“I will use every tool I have to fight for TIGER, transit grants, and other competitive programs so the federal government continues to be a good partner when it comes to investing in our nation’s roads, bridges, and public transportation,” Murray wrote.
Information in this article, originally published March 16, 2017 was corrected March 17, 2017. A previous version of this story incorrectly said a federal grant agreement for Sound Transit’s Lynnwood-Northgate light-rail project is scheduled to be signed in mid-2017. The signing actually is scheduled for mid-2018.