Murray Announces Critical Federal Support for Light Rail

Nov 04 2005

“High” rating important first step in receiving future funding

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – At a press conference with King County Executive Ron Sims and Sound Transit CEO Joni Earl, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-Wash.), the highest ranking Democrat on the Senate Transportation Appropriations Subcommittee, today announced that that the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) has awarded its highest possible rating to Sound Transit’s University Extension of the Link Light Rail system.

“This rating demonstrates critical federal support for Link Light Rail and improving transportation throughout our region,” Murray said. “Thanks to the hard work of so many, we are now a step closer to expanding this system north and improving our mobility, productivity, safety and quality of life. I will continue to work to ensure that the federal government is a strong partner in our efforts.”

The University Link project’s “High” ranking is the highest out of the five possible rankings that the FTA assigns to projects seeking New Starts funding. This ranking is essential to receiving future federal funding for the project.

“This is welcome news from the federal government that lets us know that there’s a tomorrow for Sound Transit that builds on the success of today,” Murray said. “This system is an essential part of our efforts to maintain the Puget Sound region’s legendary quality of life even as our population grows.”

The FTA’s official rating for Sound Transit follows:

Congressional 30-Day Notification

In accordance with the directive of the Consolidated Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 2005 and the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, and Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU), which requires that the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) provide the Appropriations and Authorizing Committees with a 30-day notice before approving a New Starts project into Preliminary Engineering (PE) or Final Design, I am notifying you that FTA intends to approve entry into PE for the University Link LRT project located in Seattle, Washington and sponsored by the Central Puget Sound Regional Transit Authority (Sound Transit), upon expiration of the 30-day notice period.

FTA has received sufficient information from Sound Transit addressing the New Starts criteria and other requirements, and, consistent with the overall project rating scheme established by SAFETEA-LU, has rated the project “High,” which is equivalent to a rating of “Highly Recommended.” FTA will not formally approve entry into PE for the project until at least 30 days from the date of this notice.

The University Link LRT project is a 3.1-mile long, 2-station northern extension of the Central Link Initial Segment currently under construction between the City of Tukwilla and downtown Seattle. The University Link extension would connect the region’s largest employment center (downtown Seattle) with its second and third largest centers at Capitol Hill and the University of Washington. The project further improves access to Capitol Hill and the University district from dense residential areas to the south served by Link LRT, and to downtown Seattle from the north. By providing an alternative to Interstate 5, State Route 99, and other north-south local roads, the project is anticipated to generate over 14,000 hours of travel time benefits each weekday by 2030.

The project is estimated to cost $1.72 billion. Sound Transit is proposing a 41 percent share (or $700 million) of Section 5309 New Starts funds.