Today, Deputy Secretary of Transportation Polly Trottenberg led a news conference in Redmond to announce that the USDOT will approve expanded financing assistance for Sound Transit, saving regional taxpayers more than $500 million.
The next step will be the largest loan package for a single borrower in the history of the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) program. The total amount of the package is 3.84 billion U.S. dollars for six projects. These include new TIFIA loans for the expansion of the Redmond hub and the refinancing of five previously approved loans with enhanced terms.
“The major package of loans that U.S. DOT has approved for Sound Transit demonstrates the Biden-Harris Administration’s commitment to public transit, job creation, equity and tackling climate change,” said Deputy Secretary Trottenberg. “As excited as we are about these projects in the Puget Sound region, we also know that there is so much more to do across the country, and the Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal will allow us to deliver on that.”
“The Sound Transit Board has set ambitious targets for keeping the expansion of our regional transit system on track despite the challenging construction and real estate market conditions we face. To succeed, we must rely on the expanded help of our partners, and especially our strong partnership with the federal government,” said Sound Transit Board Chair and City of University Place Councilmember Kent Keel, who spoke at the news conference along with Sound Transit CEO Peter Rogoff. “We thank USDOT and our congressional delegation for investing in our residents’ future.”
“This historical extension of our TIFIA partnership with USDOT will create more than $500 million in savings for our region’s taxpayers, helping us deliver the largest transit infrastructure program in the country as quickly as we can,” Rogoff said. “With our population growing and our planet warming, the stakes are high, and we are creating truly impactful benefits. We thank USDOT and our congressional delegation for their dedicated leadership toward making our transit expansions possible.”
The TIFIA loans enable Sound Transit to borrow money at significantly lower interest rates than would otherwise be available. The USDOT announced that, in addition to the new loan for the Downtown Redmond Link Extension, it would approve refinanced loans for the Northgate Link Extension, East Link Extension, Lynnwood Link Extension, Federal Way Link Extension, and Link Operations and Management Facility East.
“In the next three years, we will nearly triple our region’s light rail system from 22 to 62 miles. That represents rapid progress, but we will still have so much work ahead to complete the 116-mile system that our region’s voters approved in 2016,” said Sound Transit Board Vice-Chair and King County Executive Dow Constantine. “Our success depends in part on innovative federal partnerships like this and on congressional action to reinvest in our nation’s infrastructure.”
“By completing our regional transit system — and especially the spine from Everett to Tacoma — we will protect our planet. We have all felt helpless confronting record heat waves and smoky skies. But we are not helpless. It’s investments and partnerships like these that will change the way our region grows and move us toward sustainability,” said Sound Transit Board Vice-Chair and Everett Councilmember Paul Roberts.
“Today’s announcement from our federal partners represents an essential first step to meeting the Sound Transit Board’s adopted commitment to deliver most or all ST3 projects on time and connecting our communities via great transit as quickly as possible. There is more hard work to be done. Still, innovative and flexible funding tools like TIFIA loans are essential to getting our region’s transit projects built faster,” said Claudia Balducci. She chairs the Sound Transit Board System Expansion Committee and the King County Council, representing Eastside communities.
“These federal investments are making good on Biden Administration priorities,” said Sound Transit Board Labor Liaison Mark Riker, Executive Secretary of the Washington State Building Trades Council. “Sound Transit’s current projects have employed more than 22,000 workers to date, with more than 14.4 million labour hours and $660 million in wages so far. People of colour have completed 32% of this work, and women 7%, a rate more than double the 3% we see nationally. We’re not stopping there but working to further increase these numbers through ambitious apprenticeship programs.”
Expanding federal support and strengthening cooperation at the local, state, and federal levels are critical to helping Sound Transit maintain its ambitious schedule by providing transit expansion to protect the region’s mobility, economy, and environment.
The strong growth of the region’s real estate and construction costs, coupled with the advancement of environmental reviews and project design, has improved the cost estimates for future transportation expansion. Although the projects already under construction are proceeding as planned, the Sound Transit Board of Directors passed a realignment plan on August 5, setting an updated deadline for projects approved by the next generation of voters.