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Federal budget deal secures funding for streetcar and light rail

Funding at risk in President Trump’s budget is secure—this year

A light rail train with blue, green, and teal details. The LED reader on the front says “Sound Transit.” VeloBusDriver/Flickr

Update, May 5: President Trump has signed the budget bill, cementing the funding at least through September.

Federal funding for some Seattle-area transit projects is safe for now thanks to a bipartisan deal that will preserve money for local infrastructure programs—least through the end of the fiscal year in September.

President Donald Trump’s proposed budget still limited the the federal government’s ability to make new transit grants—money that local projects are counting on.

But this deal, which was brokered in part by Washington Senator Patty Murray, a senior member of the Appropriations Committee, will temporarily secure funds for many grants that help transit programs locally.

“I’m glad Congress was able to come together on this bipartisan deal to keep current projects on track,” she said in a statement.

With the new deal, the Center City Connector streetcar will receive $50 million. The Link Light Rail expansion to Lynnwood will receive the first $100 million of the $1.2 billion in federal grants the Lynnwood project needs as scheduled.

“Federal funding will continue to be a critically important contributor to our success,” said Sound Transit CEO Peter Rogoff in a written statement. “This first grant installment for Lynnwood Link will help us finally deliver light rail to Snohomish County and get thousands of daily riders off of the traffic on I-5.”

The full, $54 billion Sound Transit system expansion approved by voters last November budgets in $4.7 billion in federal funding.

The streetcar project needs an additional $25 million in a future budget, but a spokesperson for the Seattle Department of Transportation told the Seattle Times that this budget deal makes it possible for the 2018 budget to include that funding, too.

Funding for Community Transit’s Swift II Bus Rapid Transit program, which will serve Bothell and Paine Field, had also been at risk. This deal provides $43 million.

The projects are being funded by the Capital Investment Grant program, which funds large-scale transportation projects. Trump’s proposed budget cuts that program and other large-scale infrastructure grant programs, including TIGER grants. Past TIGER grantees include King County’s South Park Bridge replacement project.

Link light rail’s Lynnwood expansion is expected to be completed in 2023—the same year that stations in Mercer Island, Bellevue, Redmond, Shoreline, and Mountlake Terrace open.

The Center City Connector is scheduled to start running in 2020.