The passage of the Omnibus Appropriations bill late last week solidified funding for transit projects through the Federal Transit Administration's New Starts/Small Starts program. Transit agencies, such as Sound Transit and Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (LACMTA), are hailing the bill's passage as progress for major transit expansion projects.
Included in the bill is $74.99 million for Sound Transit’ Tacoma Link light-rail expansion.
In 2008, voters approved a partnership to extend the Tacoma Link light-rail system. The 2.4-mile extension will run along Stadium Way to the Hilltop District and include one relocated station and six new stations. The extension also includes an expanded Tacoma Operations and Maintenance Facility next to the existing maintenance facility and four power substations.
The existing 1.6-mile light rail line serves six stations between the Theater District and the Tacoma Dome. Trains run every 12 minutes and provide nearly a million rides per year.
“This is a huge win for Tacoma and combined with the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant, will strengthen the region’s infrastructure and is a great example of why it’s so important we keep fighting for investments in our communities,” said U.S. Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA). “As the region continues to grow, projects such as Tacoma Link will be the key to connecting our neighborhoods, creating new jobs, strengthening our economy, easing congestion and providing safe, reliable transit for students, workers and families.”
In addition to the Small Starts funding, the extension is funded by approximately $50 million in Sound Transit 2 revenues and $33 million in other federal and state grants, including a $15 million TIGER grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) that the city was awarded in October. The city will identify an additional $7 million to complete its $40-million contribution to the project.
During the next two years, staff will advance engineering work on the project. The preliminary cost estimate of approximately $175 million in year-of-expenditure dollars will also be refined. Construction is scheduled to begin in 2018.
The bill also includes funding for two major rail projects currently being constructed by LACMTA. The rail projects securing federal funds in this bill are the Regional Connector, section 1 of the Westside Purple Line Extension (from Wilshire/Western to La Cienega Boulevard) and section 2 of the Westside Purple Line Extension (from La Cienega Boulevard to Century City).
The three-phase Purple Line Extension will extend westward for about nine miles with seven new stations. It will provide a high-capacity, high-speed, dependable alternative for those traveling to and from LA’s “second downtown,” including destinations such as Miracle Mile, Beverly Hills, Century City and Westwood.
The Regional Connector is a 1.9-mile underground light-rail system connecting the LACMTA Gold Line to the 7th Street/Metro Center Station. The project includes three new stations and will provide a one-seat ride for travel across Los Angeles County.
“LACMTA thanks Congress for providing more than $250 million in federal transportation funds for Los Angeles County rail projects in their Omnibus spending bill for Fiscal Year 2016,” said LACMTA Chairman and Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas. “These federal funds will ensure that LACMTA can continue to successfully expand our rail network across Los Angeles County.”
In 2014, both the Regional Connector and section 1 of the Westside Purple Line Extension secured Federal Full Funding Grant Agreements (FFGA) from USDOT. The Regional Connector FFGA is valued at $670 million and was accompanied by a $160-million low-interest federal Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) loan. The Westside Purple Line Extension (section 1) FFGA is valued at more than $1.2 billion and was accompanied by a $856-million low-interest federal TIFIA loan. Section 2 of the Westside Purple Line Extension is expected to secure an FFGA next year valued at approximately $1.2 billion and is also expected to secure a $307-million low-interest TIFIA loan.