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10/5/2000



Rail News: Passenger Rail

Congress to consider funds for Seattle light rail


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A congressional House/Senate conference committee Oct. 3 recommended an annual $57 million appropriation for Central Puget Sound Regional Transit Authority (Sound Transit) in its fiscal-year 2001 transportation appropriations budget.

Pending congressional approval, the recommendation would earmark $50 million for Link light-rail project — twice last year’s Link appropriation, and right on the heels of Federal Transit Administration’s recommended $500 million total appropriation for the Central Link light-rail project. The grant agreement, which is undergoing a 60-day review process, recommends appropriating $35 million toward the Link project in 2001.

Link light-rail project contains two parts. Tacoma Link, with four planned stops over a 1.6-mile route and free service, is set to begin construction this fall. Central Link portion, with 23 stations spread over 24 miles, would start construction early next year.

"This appropriation and the FTA’s recommendation of our grant agreement are both strong signals of the confidence the federal government has in our light-rail project," said Sound Transit Board Chairman Dave Earling, an Edmonds city council member, in a prepared statement.

On Sept. 6, Earling responded to light-rail opponents who called for the agency to hold all light-rail-related activity for three months, assuring them "Sound Transit will not turn a shovel of dirt on the light-rail project until we know we can pay for it."

But Sept. 7, Seattle-based Sound Transit’s Citizen Oversight Panel (COP) expressed concern that costs had risen 12 percent between January and June this year.

The Congressional 2001 appropriation recommendation also designates $5 million toward Sound Transit’s commuter rail program, Sounder, and $2 million for its ST Express bus program.


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