- The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) has authorized the Central Puget Sound Regional Transit Authority (Sound Transit) to move the $3.1 billion, 7.8-mile Federal Way Link light-rail extension into the engineering phase. This puts the authority one step closer to securing a 25% Capital Investment Grant of approximately $790 million from the FTA.
- Sound Transit officials, which have been working with the FTA since 2016 on the project, said they would continue their efforts toward a Full Funding Grant Agreement (FFGA) and toward its goal of opening the new extension in 2024. Demolition and utility work is underway, and major construction should start in 2020.
- The FTA, according to the authority, has given the project a “medium-high” rating in its annual review of projects competing for federal dollars through the CIG program. The FFGA contribution will help cover the purchase of 20 additional Link vehicles and larger contingencies the FTA now requires.
It can take years for a project to make its way through the FTA approval process. For the Federal Way Link extension, the next step for the new rail addition will be the FFGA award.
Total federal funding for the extension, according to the FTA, is $808 million — the FFGA amount, $13 million in Federal Highway Administration flexible funds and $5 million from the FTA’s Section 5307 Urbanized Area Formula Program. Local funding makes up the lion’s share of the project budget, though, and that will come from Sound Transit ($1.6 billion); a Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) loan ($629.5 million) that Sound Transit will pay back through dedicated tax revenue; and bonds ($145.5 million).
Financing a light-rail project also entails a lot of resourcefulness, juggling and planning, as well as developing a good relationship with FTA officials, because they decide whether the project receives critical federal funding.
But agencies like Sound Transit seem to have won the FTA over. At the end of last year, the administration executed a $1.1 billion FFGA with Sound Transit for the 8.5 mile, $3.2 billion Lynnwood Link Extension light-rail project. The grant will pay 36% of the extension’s costs. The project was also approved for $658 million in TIFIA loans.
Meanwhile, project heads at the Valley Metro Regional Public Transportation Authority in Phoenix told Construction Dive earlier this month that one reason the local authority’s projects were so successful is because, over time, officials have built a high level of trust with FTA officials by providing them with reliable and timely information and proving that Valley Metro line projects are not risky.