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Sound Transit applies for $500 million FFGA — again

After taking several steps back, Sound Transit is stepping forward again. The agency July 2 submitted its application to Federal Transit Administration for a $500 million Full Funding Grant Agreement to be used for construction of the first segment of Central Link light-rail system.

"With our New Starts ‘Recommended’ rating, the recent federal approval of our environmental assessment and issuance of the ‘Record of Decision’, we’ve cleared the major hurdles for requesting the federal funds to build light rail," said Executive Director Joni Earl in a prepared statement.

In late 2000, Sound Transit’s light-rail director resigned and then-chief operating officer Earl was asked to look at inflating project and cost estimates. She reported that engineering estimates were $1.1 billion more than preliminary estimates. The following January, the executive director resigned and Earl was named acting ED.

Then in April 2001, U.S. Department of Transportation Inspector General Kenneth Mead recommended DOT withhold the FFGA until Sound Transit could identify and disclose outstanding issues that could impact cost, schedule and scope.

Sound Transit has been working since then to get a handle on cost estimates and restore Seattle-area voters’ confidence.

If granted, the $500 million would include $91 million already awarded to the agency.

The grant application will be reviewed by FTA’s regional office before being forwarded to the administration’s Washington, D.C., headquarters. If and when FTA clears the grant, Secretary of Transportation Norman Mineta would review it, as well as the White House Office of Management and Budget, and Congress.

Sound Transit officials believe the grant will be approved by year end.

Still pending at FTA are final design approval on specific elements of the initial segment, and a Letter of No Prejudice on the demolition and site preparation at the planned Link Maintenance Base. Officials expect these approvals later this month.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 7/8/2002