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Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao agreed to carry out Congressional intent for the Capital Investment Grant program, good news for Sound Transit’s Lynnwood Link Extension 

During hearing, Sen. Murray also pushed Sec. Chao on President Trump’s proposed elimination of CIG, the Transportation department’s commitment to addressing sexual assault on planes, proposed funding cuts to TIGER grant program 

***WATCH VIDEO OF SEN. MURRAY’S Q&A WITH SEC. CHAO ON THE LYNNWOOD LINK EXTENSION HERE*** 

(Washington, D.C.) –  Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, pushed U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao during a July 13 Senate hearing on federal funding for the Lynnwood Link Extension and secured a commitment from the Secretary that federal funds previously appropriated by Congress for the project will be disbursed. This multi-year transit project, a priority that would ease congestion in Puget Sound and boost the regional economy, is partially funded by the Capital Investment Grant (CIG) program, the primary federal grant program that supports major public transit capital investments in Washington state and nationwide. Congress approved $100 million in funding for the Lynnwood Link Extension in last year’s budget, but President Trump’s Fiscal Year 2018 budget request slashes the CIG program by $1.18 billion and would only fund projects which already have signed grant agreements with the federal government. Five projects in Washington state, including the Lynnwood Link Extension, could be negatively impacted by cuts to the CIG program, and Sen. Murray pressed Secretary Chao on whether funding for the project that was appropriated by Congress in the Fiscal Year 2017 budget would still be awarded to the Lynnwood Link Extension upon submission of their final proposal, prompting Secretary Chao to commit to following Congress’ directive to fund the project.

Sen. Murray’s questions follow several efforts to raise the importance of CIG funding for transportation projects in Washington state with the Trump Administration, including an April 6 letter to the Senate Appropriations Committee urging the inclusion of $2.3 billion for CIG in the FY18 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Appropriations bill, written questions on CIG submitted for the record to Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney on May 25, and a June 8 letter to Director Mulvaney on CIG, as the Trump Administration’s rationale for eliminating funding for transit projects was increasing support at the local level through ballot initiatives and specifically calling out Seattle, Los Angeles, and Denver.

Watch video of Sen. Murray’s Q&A exchange with Sec. Chao HERE.

Transcript of Sen. Murray’s Q&A exchange with Sec. Chao below:

SEN. MURRAY: Madam Secretary, thank you for being in front of us. I reiterate what I know has been a big discussion today on both CIG grants and TIGER. And I want to thank the Chairman and Ranking Member for really pushing you on that, because these are so critical to so many of our communities. As you know when I talked to you earlier this year, I was deeply concerned that the budget really punished a lot of our communities that had put forward levies and taxed themselves based on the fact that they believed there was going to be a federal partner, and I think we have a responsibility to commit to that. I know you did to both the Chairman and Ranking Member earlier, but I wanted to specifically ask you again about the Lynnwood Link Extension, which this Congress funded with $100 million. I do understand you’re waiting for them to put the final proposal in front of you, but my understanding is you committed to Senator Reed that, when those are in front of you as we have funded, that you will sign those and get those moving. Is that correct?

SEC. CHAO: Let me review that again. Did I promise you that when I met with you?

MURRAY: No. We talked about the program in general. I understand that you said the CIG projects that are in the pipeline – that you will be moving on those this year. Is that correct?

CHAO: Yes. If the funding came in on 2017, we will give it out. Obviously, the 2018 situation will become more tenuous, but that unfortunately is the risk of the project, the project sponsors, or whoever. But whatever is given to us, we will of course be distributing.

MURRAY: Ok, that’s what I wanted to ask you.