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Sound Transit rejects ‘misguided’ call-out in Trump Administration budget

Seattle is currently dealing with a light rail outage. (Sound Transit)

The Northgate-Lynnwood Light rail extension, which is scheduled to open in 2023, was supposed to get $1.2 billion from the Federal Transit Administration – which would have covered half the cost of the project. But that money isn’t in President Trump’s proposed budget. Sound Transit’s CEO told the Seattle Times he’s reached out to allies in Congress who are pleased with how eager they are to help fight for local transit money.

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The CEOs of Sound Transit and The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority issued a statement in opposition to the Administration’s proposed cuts of transit funding programs on Thursday.

The agencies disagree with being named in the administration’s Fiscal Year 2018 budget proposal, which asserted the agencies “realize waiting for grant funding is not the most efficient way to meet their local transportation needs.” Sound Transit asserts that the federal grant funding acts as a “keystone to the consensus necessary to raise local funds for transit.” And that “Without that federal encouragement, we cannot succeed alone locally.”

Here is the White House’s assertion:

The Budget proposes reduced funding for this program, which provides Federal funding for local transit projects that should be funded by State and localities that benefit from their use. Localities are better equipped to scale and design infrastructure investment needed for their communities. Several major metropolitan areas, including Denver, Los Angeles, and Seattle, have already begun to move in this direction by asking residents to approve multi-billion dollar bond measures to speed the delivery of highway and transit investments. These regions realize waiting for Federal grant funding is not the most efficient way to meet their local transportation needs. Federal resources should be focused on making targeted investments that can leverage private sector investment and incentivize the creation of revenue streams where possible.

And here is the joint response from the agencies:

The administration’s assertion that our regions can deliver transit solutions for our citizens without federal partnership is uninformed, misguided, and unfair. The voters of our communities stepped up and voted to tax themselves to provide a path out of punishing congestion. For that bold action, they should be rewarded at the federal level, not punished.

The ballot measures adopted by our voters assumed a reasonable level of federal matching funds to deliver our most challenging transit solutions through the continued funding of the Federal Transit Administration’s Capital Investment Grant program. But the administration’s budget proposes to terminate that federal partnership for challenging projects at a time when ever-worsening road congestion threatens to choke off our and other region’s economic growth. This wrong-headed budget proposal ignores the will of our local voters and the real-world challenges we are facing in our rapidly growing cities.

Sound Transit background

According to Sound Transit, without congressional action, the most immediate impact of the budget proposal would be the elimination of a $1.17 billion federal commitment to the Lynnwood Link light rail extension that was identified last February when the Federal Transit Administration authorized the project to enter into the engineering phase. The region’s congressional delegation recently secured a $100 million FY 2017 initial installment toward the $1.17 billion commitment.

Following regional voters’ approval of a $54 billion Sound Transit 3 ballot measure in November 2016, over the next 25 years Sound Transit’s financial plans assume approximately $5 billion in New Starts funding for voter-approved capital projects. Sound Transit’s next project in the pipeline is seeking $500 million in federal funding to reach the City of Federal Way.

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