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The U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) has executed an $87.7 million low-interest loan for Sound Transit's new light-rail operations and maintenance facility in Bellevue, Washington. The 25-acre operations and maintenance shop is needed to accommodate expansion of the Puget Sound region's light-rail system, Sound Transit officials said in a press release. By 2024, the system will grow from 22 miles to 62, with the existing light-rail fleet slated to grow from 62 cars to 214. The agency's existing facility in Seattle can store and maintain at least 104 light-rail vehicles. The new facility will be designed to maintain, store and deploy an additional 96 units.The loan is Sound Transit's second under a $1.99 billion master credit agreement that USDOT approved in December 2016 through the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA). With an interest rate of 2.73 percent, the latest loan is expected to reduce regional taxpayers' share of the costs for the new maintenance facility, according to the agency. Sound Transit applied for the TIFIA loans to insulate itself from "unexpected downturns in the economy and provide taxpayers savings from agency borrowing costs," agency officials said. The loans allow Sound Transit to borrow money at lower interest rates.In 2018, the agency expects to execute loans to support the Lynnwood Link and Federal Way light-rail extensions. Meanwhile, Sound Transit's board late last week directed agency staff to study an elevated light-rail alignment in downtown Redmond, Washington. The change is among other potential refinements to the downtown Redmond Link extension, which will extend the future East Link Line by 3.5 miles.The refinements were identified after regional voters approved the project last year.The changes would results in a route that's 600 feet shorter, ending at an elevated station in the Redmond Town Center area. "Shifting to elevated tracks in downtown Redmond is cost-effective and will create a win for transit riders, drivers and pedestrians alike," said Sound Transit Board Vice Chair and Redmond Mayor John Marchione. "Redmond and Sound Transit have built a strong partnership that will continue to move this project forward to an expedited opening."The proposed refinements will undergo additional environmental review and engineering prior to the board's scheduled 2018 adoption of the final project, which will be built under a design-built contract.Although Sound Transit's board adopted a previously approved route to downtown Redmond in 2011 as part of the broader East Link project, the downtown extension wasn't funded until regional voters' approved the Sound Transit 3 ballot measure in November 2016.The downtown Redmond project is estimated to cost $880 million to $915 million.