The Puget Sound region's entire congressional delegation wrote to the U.S. Transportation Secretary, urging her to "keep the federal government's promises" by providing $1.2 billion in funding to expand light rail to Lynnwood. Many of the region's biggest employers also threw their weight behind the cause.
Washington’s congressional delegation, its biggest businesses and its construction industry are urging the federal government to help fund Sound Transit’s light-rail expansion to Lynnwood.
Washington’s two U.S. senators and the seven members of the House of Representatives from the Puget Sound region wrote to Elaine Chao, U.S. secretary of transportation, citing her past statements and the full funding her agency has received from Congress in pleading for federal money that Sound Transit had been anticipating.
“For over a year at numerous committee hearings you have said DOT would follow the law, adhere to the will of Congress and execute Capital Investment Grant agreements that have received federal funding,” the congress members, eight Democrats and one Republican, wrote on Thursday. “We strongly urge you to keep the federal government’s promise to our constituents.”
They requested that the agency approve grant funding for the project this fiscal year, which ends on Sept. 30.
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Sound Transit received approval to apply for the federal grants in 2013, and the 8.5-mile Lynnwood Link, which will run from Northgate to Lynnwood, received “medium-high” rankings from the Federal Transit Administration in 2015 and 2017.
While President Donald Trump has twice proposed eliminating funding for public transit projects, Congress has ignored him. The federal budget passed by Congress in March increased funding for transit grants and required them to be distributed in the usual way, which previously delivered more than $1.3 billion to Sound Transit’s existing light-rail network from Husky Stadium to Angle Lake Station in SeaTac.
Sound Transit has applied for about $1.2 billion in funding for the Lynnwood project, which would cover about 38 percent of estimated costs.
Many of Washington state’s largest employers also wrote to Chao, in February, urging funding for Lynnwood Link.
“Crushing congestion threatens our region’s and nation’s continued economic momentum and our residents’ quality of life,” the companies and institutions, including Amazon, Microsoft, Costco, Google, REI and the University of Washington, wrote in February. “There is no question that our transportation infrastructure, including our public transit infrastructure, directly serves a national purpose by ensuring businesses in this region can function at peak levels of efficiency and productivity.”
Groups of Washington state engineering firms and contractors, as well as the Seattle/King County Building and Construction Trades Council, which represents 19 local unions, all wrote separately this month to Chao, urging her to fund the rail project.
Lynnwood Link is the largest, by far, of six Washington transit projects currently seeking some level of federal funding. Also on that list are light rail to Federal Way, two proposed Seattle RapidRide bus lines, the downtown Seattle streetcar expansion and a Spokane bus line.
The Seattle Department of Transportation has significantly scaled back the amount of federal funding that it expects to receive, after previously promising to build seven new RapidRide lines heavily reliant on federal money.
“The FTA regional office has expressed some concerns about the large number of regional projects that are in the pipeline,” SDOT interim Director Goran Sparrman said last month. “They’ve urged us to be very cautious about not putting projects into that.”