Bad news for light rail in Washington, D.C. today, via the Seattle Times:
Sound Transit and its allies in Congress say they’ll fight a 2018 budget proposal by President Donald Trump that yanks $1.1 billion to build the Lynnwood-Northgate light-rail extension — half of that project’s entire funding.
That corridor, scheduled to open in 2023, is under final engineering and was previously recommended to receive the money from the Federal Transit Administration (FTA).
But in an FTA annual statement released Wednesday afternoon, the Lynnwood line is omitted, even though it earned a “medium-high” federal rating and would add 67,000 daily riders. Thousands more would arrive from an Everett line expected to open in the 2030s.
Things looked bad for Sound Transit in March when Trump first released his budget. Then came a bright spot earlier this month, when it looked as if Congress would save funding for Sound Transit's proposed light rail line to Lynnwood. Now, the agency is back on defense.
Trump's 2018 budget proposal claims local transit projects should be funded by local money. Most of the $54 billion Sound Transit 3 package approved last year already comes from local dollars, but about 13 percent of that funding is expected to come from federal sources.
“The voters of Puget Sound have already voted to tax themselves for the local share to make these projects happen," said Sound Transit CEO Peter Rogoff in a statement today. "They now have the right to expect a reasonable return on their federal taxes to also address these critical regional needs."
Meanwhile, in this Washington:
House Bill 2201 is the Democratic compromise plan to address anger over the inflated formula Sound Transit uses to charge the car tab fees. Those fees—also referred to as MVET—will help fund the light rail projects in Sound Transit 3.
By giving some drivers who pay high car tabs a tax credit, HB 2201 would directly cost Sound Transit $780 million in funding for light rail. The Transportation Choices Coalition, which advocates for transit and receives some of its funding from Sound Transit, estimates the cost would actually be about $2 billion total because of higher borrowing costs.
Because of the loss of revenue, transit advocates have been fighting the bill. But the proposal has won unanimous support from House Democrats, who say the agency can absorb the costs without affecting the delivery of rail projects. Today, every Democrat in the House again voted for the bill.