Last week, U.S. Transportation Deputy Secretary Polly Trottenberg led a news conference in Redmond to announce that U.S. DOT will approve expanded financing assistance for Sound Transit that will create more than $500 million in savings for regional taxpayers.
The upcoming action will represent U.S. DOT’s largest-ever package of loans for a single borrower in the history of the department’s Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) program. The package will total $3.84 billion for six projects. It includes a new TIFIA loan for the Downtown Redmond Link Extension, and refinancing of five previously approved loans under improved terms.
“The major package of loans that U.S. DOT has approved for Sound Transit demonstrates the Biden-Harris Administration’s commitment to public transit, job creation, equity and tackling climate change,” said Deputy Secretary Trottenberg. “As excited as we are about these projects in the Puget Sound region, we also know that there is so much more to do across the country, and the Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal will allow us to deliver on that.”
“The Sound Transit Board has set ambitious targets for keeping the expansion of our regional transit system on track despite the challenging construction and real estate market conditions we face. To succeed we must rely on expanded help of our partners, and especially our strong partnership with the federal government,” said Sound Transit Board Chair and City of University Place Councilmember Kent Keel, who spoke at the news conference along with Sound Transit CEO Peter Rogoff. “We thank U.S. DOT and our congressional delegation for investing in our residents’ future.”
“This historic extension of our TIFIA partnership with U.S. DOT will create more than $500 million in savings for our region’s taxpayers, helping us deliver the largest transit infrastructure program in the country as quickly as we can,” Rogoff said. “With our population growing and our planet warming, the stakes are high, and we are creating truly impactful benefits. We thank U.S. DOT and our congressional delegation for their dedicated leadership toward making our transit expansions possible.”
The TIFIA loans allow Sound Transit to borrow money at rates significantly lower than otherwise available. In addition to the new loan for the Downtown Redmond Link Extension, the U.S. DOT announced it will approve refinanced loans for the Northgate Link Extension; East Link Extension; Lynnwood Link Extension; Federal Way Link Extension; and Link Operations and Management Facility East.
Video footage and images of Sound Transit’s projects and services are available for news media use at https://vimeo.com/588997707/ea5e453855. Check back soon for added footage, including a tour for Deputy Secretary Trottenberg to see Sound Transit’s light rail construction on I-90 across Lake Washington, the first-ever development of rail transit across a floating bridge.
“In the next three years we will nearly triple our region’s light rail system from 22 to 62 miles. That represents rapid progress, but we will still have so much work ahead to complete the 116-mile system that our region’s voters approved in 2016,” said Sound Transit Board Vice Chair and King County Executive Dow Constantine. “Our success depends in part on innovative federal partnerships like this, and on congressional action to reinvest in our nation’s infrastructure.”
“By completing our regional transit system — and especially the spine from Everett to Tacoma — we will protect our planet. We have all felt helpless confronting record heat waves and smoky skies. But we are not helpless. It’s investments and partnerships like these that will change the way our region grows and move us toward sustainability,” said Sound Transit Board Vice Chair and Everett Council member Paul Roberts.
“Today’s announcement from our federal partners represents an essential first step to meeting the Sound Transit Board’s adopted commitment to deliver most or all ST3 projects on time and connecting our communities via great transit as quickly as possible. There is more hard work to be done, but innovative and flexible funding tools like TIFIA loans are essential to getting our region’s transit projects built faster,” said Claudia Balducci, who chairs the Sound Transit Board System Expansion Committee as well as the King County Council, representing Eastside communities.
“These federal investments are making good on Biden Administration priorities,” said Sound Transit Board Labor Liaison Mark Riker, Executive Secretary of the Washington State Building Trades Council. “Sound Transit’s current projects have employed more than 22,000 workers to date, with more than 14.4 million labor hours and $660 million in wages so far. People of color have completed 32% of this work, and women 7%, a rate more than double the 3% we see nationally. We’re not stopping there but working to further increase these numbers through ambitious apprenticeship programs.”
The expanded federal support, and further collaboration at the local, state and federal levels, is critical for helping Sound Transit stay on ambitious schedules delivering transit expansions to protect the region’s mobility, economy and environment.
Steep rises in real estate and construction costs in the region, in combination with work to advance environmental review and project designs, have driven up cost estimates for future transit expansions. While projects already in construction are moving forward on schedule, the Sound Transit Board of Directors on Aug. 5 adopted a realignment plan that established updated delivery dates for the next generation of voter-approved projects. Details are available at www.soundtransit.org/realignment.
As current construction advances rapidly, commuters around the region will increasingly see the fruits of Sound Transit’s strong federal and local partnerships take shape. Between now and 2024, Sound Transit will nearly triple the length of the region’s light rail system from 22 to 62 miles. The agency will open new extensions to: Northgate on Oct. 2 of this year; to Tacoma’s Hilltop neighborhood in 2022; to Bellevue and Redmond’s Overlake area 2023; and to Lynnwood, Federal Way and Downtown Redmond in 2024.
Meanwhile, Sound Transit will continue work closely with local communities and jurisdictions on further light rail expansions to complete a 116-mile regional system, as well as complete Stride bus rapid transit and Sounder rail investments.
This week’s news conference also highlighted the critical benefits provided by the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act that is now under consideration by Congress.
The Act would double the funding for the competitive Capital Investment Grants program supporting large transit expansion projects around the country. With the help of our congressional delegation, Sound Transit has always competed well for these funds and we hope to expand our participation in the future. In total, as part of the $550 billion in new spending in the bipartisan bill, $39.2 billion is provided for transit. The act’s surface transportation reauthorization includes a 75% increase for transit over the previous five years. Separate from the boost in Capital Investment Grants, the Seattle urbanized area is forecasted to receive $1.3 billion in federal formula funds through FY2006, with Sound Transit expected to receive approximately $360 million, an increase of $50 million from the agency’s previous assumptions.