Federal Funds Set to Flow to New Light-Rail Line in Seattle Area

A Sound Transit Link train heads north into downtown Seattle.

A Sound Transit Link train heads north into downtown Seattle. Shutterstock


Connecting state and local government leaders

The full funding grant agreement will “get this critical project underway soon,” according to U.S. Sen. Patty Murray.

SEATTLE — After months of pressure from Washington’s congressional delegation, $1.2 billion in federal funding will soon start flowing to Sound Transit to build a voter-approved 8.5-mile extension of the Seattle area’s light-rail system northward to Lynnwood, a suburb in Snohomish County.

A full funding grant agreement for the project from the Federal Transit Administration was hailed on Monday by state and local leaders, including Washington’s two U.S. senators, Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray, as the last step needed to start construction.

“Completing the Lynnwood Link light rail extension will help commuters and consumers connect with employment and education centers, local businesses, as well as address congestion concerns, and I am grateful to Secretary [Elaine] Chao and the Federal Transit Administration for following through on their commitment to move forward with this grant agreement and get this critical project underway soon,” Murray said in a statement.

The route’s alignment, with four new stations, will parallel Interstate 5, which is among the nation’s most congested highways where commutes can take more than an hour between downtown Seattle and suburban communities in Snohomish County. After the extension’s scheduled opening in 2024, Lynnwood Link is projected to carry 68,500 daily riders by 2035.

A map of the alignment of Sound Transit's Lynnwood Link. (Shutterstock) 

”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,” said Snohomish County Executive Dave Somers, who currently chairs the Sound Transit Board of Directors. “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 project’s full funding grant agreement from the FTA will kick off a 30-day congressional review period, the last step before the agency can sign and execute the agreement, which will allow Sound Transit to start tapping $200 million in federal funding already OK’d by Congress through the Capital Investment Grants program. In total, the Lynnwood extension is projected to cost around $3 billion.

Sound Transit is currently building a handful of voter-approved light-rail extensions in and around Seattle that build off of Central Link, the initial segment of light rail system that opened in 2009, and University Link, a 3.1-mile-long tunneled extension to the Capitol Hill neighborhood and the University of Washington that opened in 2015. Next up for Link’s expansion are a 4.3-mile extension northward from the University of Washington to Northgate, which is scheduled to open in 2021; and East Link, which will bring light-rail trains across Lake Washington to Mercer Island, Bellevue and Redmond on a new 14-mile-long line that’s currently under construction and is scheduled to open in 2023.

Additional Link light-rail extensions approved by voters in 2016 as part of the Sound Transit 3 expansion package are currently in the planning stages, bringing service to Everett, Issaquah, Tacoma and in Seattle, the Ballard and West Seattle neighborhoods.

Michael Grass is Executive Editor of Route Fifty and is based in Seattle.

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