Sound Transit approved for $1.3 billion TIFIA loan for light-rail extension

Written by Jenifer Nunez, assistant editor

Sound Transit has been approved for a $1.33-billion Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) loan for construction of the East Link Light Rail Extension Project.

The loan will expand the Link system serving the Puget Sound region and help Sound Transit implement a voter-approved regional capital improvement plan.

“The East Link Project will give the people in Seattle area better access to jobs, education,and other opportunities,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “This project will have a significant impact on the entire region and expand a world class transit system. We want to bring these opportunities to other parts of the country, working with Congress to develop a sustainable, long-term funding solution for transit, roads, bridges and other crucial infrastructure.”

The 14.5-mile light-rail extension will connect some of the region’s most populated and fastest-growing areas to Sound Transit’s existing rail system at the International District/Chinatown Station, which runs from downtown Seattle to SeaTac Airport. According to Sound Transit, extending light rail in this corridor is expected to create 40,000 jobs in construction and future economic development, as well as increase access to growing software and biotech industries in the greater metropolitan area.

“This is great news for commuters, the local economy and Washington state taxpayers,” said U.S. Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA). “I was proud to support this funding for Sound Transit as they continue building a world class transit system that will help our economy continue to grow and create jobs here in Washington state.”

“As ridership on our trains and buses grows, more investments in our transportation infrastructure are needed to meet the demand for transit services,” said Sound Transit Board Chair and King County Executive Dow Constantine. “This innovative financing allows local tax dollars to go farther in building the regional system. We are grateful to Senator Murray and Secretary Foxx for their outstanding leadership and support.”

In addition to the $1.33 billion TIFIA loan, the U.S. Department of Transportation is contributing $74.7 million in Federal Transit Administration (FTA) funds and $14 million in Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) V funds toward the $4-billion East Link Project. Construction is expected to begin later in 2015, with a targeted opening date of 2023. The new line is expected to serve approximately 50,000 daily riders by 2030.

“Rapid and reliable public transit is a gateway to greater opportunity and this project will make a huge difference for residents traveling to major destinations such as downtown Seattle, SeaTac Airport and the University of Washington,” said FTA Acting Administrator Therese McMillan. “Seattle continues to lead by example, bringing more 21st century transportation options to the Puget Sound region’s growing population.”