The federal omnibus spending bill the House passed today will spare Sound Transit deep budget cuts proposed by President Donald Trump.
Last month, Trump proposed cutting a federal transit grant program that will be key for expanding light rail to Lynnwood and Federal Way. Sound Transit is counting on that program for about $1.17 billion toward the Lynnwood project (40 percent of that project's cost) and $500 million for Federal Way (less than 20 percent of that project's cost).
Congress's final spending bill does not adopt Trump's preferred cuts, so Sound Transit still expects those federal dollars for Lynnwood and Federal Way, Sound Transit CEO Peter Rogoff told the agency's board today. In fact, the spending bill will increase the Federal Transit Administration's budget. It will include $2.65 billion in grants for transit projects, which is higher than in the past.
Rogoff also brought less rosy news about the Lynnwood project.
Last year, Sound Transit revealed that it would cost about $510 million more than previously expected to build light rail from Northgate to Lynnwood. The agency blamed increasing property values and construction costs. The Seattle Times reported that demand for more plazas, parking, and other design changes also increased the costs. At that time, Sound Transit revised its budget for the Lynnwood project to $2.9 billion.
Today, Rogoff said the federal government thinks the project will cost even more.
Rogoff told the Sound Transit Board that both his agency and the Federal Transit Administration recently completed new risk assessments of the project. Sound Transit confirmed the expected cost of $2.9 billion, he said, but the FTA found the project could cost $3.1 billion.
“While we disagree,” Rogoff said, Sound Transit is “required to accede to the FTA.” Rogoff told board members the FTA also had a higher expectation than Sound Transit for the costs of extending light rail to Husky Stadium. But that line opened in 2016 at a cost of $202 million less than the FTA expectation, Rogoff said. “We now hope to repeat that process for Lynnwood Link.”