Read a Pacific Northwest, liberal perspective on world, national, and local politics. From majestic Redmond, Washington - the Northwest Progressive Institute Advocate.

Friday, November 14, 2008

FTA says it's ready to grant Sound Transit $813 million for University Link

Great news today for Sound Transit's expansion plans: The Federal Transit Administration has formally informed Congress of its intention to provide $813 million to Sound Transit for the construction of University Link, which will extend light rail north from downtown Seattle across the Montlake Cut.

If Congress doesn't object to the agreement within sixty days (and it is very unlikely to) the FTA will be cleared to go ahead with the grant, which will provide about half the money necessary to build the project. Sound Transit is supplying the rest of the revenue (which was already committed and isn't provided by Prop 1).

When complete, University Link will run 3.5 miles underground from Westlake Center to the University of Washington, serving Capitol Hill along the way. The line is expected to open in 2016 and add at least 70,000 riders a day.

The FTA's enthusiasm for University Link stems from the huge boost the project would provide to our transportation system.

Here's an overview from Sound Transit:
The population of the corridor served by University Link will go up a projected 56 percent between 2000 and 2030, further increasing congestion and the relief provided by light rail service. Based on its tremendous benefits, the University Link project received the highest possible ranking in the extremely competitive federal funding process.

University Link will provide a reliable option for drivers and transit users who are stuck on I-5, a facility that operates over capacity for up to eight hours a day, with vehicle speeds running between 15 and 35 mph. Already, buses can run up to 30 minutes behind schedule due to congestion. Compared to bus service, University Link travel times will be almost three times faster. From the University District, it will take 9 minutes instead of 25 minutes to get downtown and 3 minutes instead of 22 minutes to get to Capitol Hill.
Thanks to the passage of Sound Transit 2, planning to extend light rail beyond the University of Washington to Northgate, Shoreline, and Lynnwood is moving forward. By the mid 2020s, Sound Transit's light rail system will run almost sixty miles in three directions (north, east, and south).

For too long, we've talked about creating a rapid transit backbone, but we haven't actually done anything. Now - finally - we're going to build it..


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