Sound Transit officially secured its long-pledged $1.17 billion grant and $658 million loan from the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) for the Lynnwood Link extension.
Executing the loan paperwork clears the way for the project to move forward and make its revised 2024 opening date, with $200 million immediately available (and the rest when Congress passes its next appropriations bill). Four stations north of Seattle will open with Lynnwood Link: South Shoreline, North Shoreline, Mountlake Terrace, and the eponymous Lynnwood station.
“This is great news for everyone in the Puget Sound region who wants to see more commuting options and our freeway congestion eased,” said Dave Somers, Sound Transit Board Chair and Snohomish County Executive. “Lynnwood Link is the first major investment in light rail for Snohomish County, and we appreciate the hard work of our congressional delegation and the Federal Transit Administration. Sound Transit has an ambitious plan to deliver for the people of our region, and Lynnwood Link is a key part of that plan.”
The Lynnwood Link extension will build off Northgate Link, an extension also adding stations in the University District and Roosevelt and set to open in 2021. Finishing Lynnwood Link will be one of the final touches on Sound Transit 2, a transit funding measure passed by popular vote of the Sound Transit taxing district in 2008. Sound Transit 2 also funded East Link (as far as Overlake Center) and the Federal Way Link extension.
Sound Transit 3, passed in 2016, will expand on Lynnwood Link and reach Everett by 2036 in Sound Transit’s plan. Mike Lindblom, transportation reporter for The Seattle Times, pointed out that Snohomish County is heavily relying on credit, such as the $658 million federal loan, to make its ambitious plans work. And that’s even before the Paine Field routing selection is further added to Snohomish County’s Sound Transit bill.
Interestingly, Acting FTA Administrator K. Jane Williams made the case to The Seattle Times that the Trump Administration wasn’t slow walking and obstructing transit projects, despite evidence to the contrary, such as repeated efforts to strip transit funding from future budgets and switching TIGER grants to highway pork rather than transit.
“The facts speak for themselves,” Williams told The Seattle Times. “There is a narrative out there that’s simply not supported. In fact, we have processed and put forward funding for 17 projects.” Williams argued the FTA under Trump had now approved more transit funding than Obama had at the same point in his first term. Of course, the massive recession and financial crisis underway when Obama took office add some context to this spin.