The Student Newspaper of Highline College

Financial limitations not enough to halt light rail project

Sofia Correa Staff Reporter Jun 03, 2021

Sound Transit’s Federal Way expansion project will not be delayed, even in the wake of the pandemic’s economic downturn.

The project, which began last year and will include a station close to campus, came to a sudden albeit not long-lasting stop in the early days of the pandemic. The work stoppage did not last long enough to seriously hinder the construction timeline, but Sound Transit’s worries did come in the form of some financial obstacles.

Enter “Realignment.”

The pandemic-driven recession had caused a simultaneous decrease in consumer demand and agency tax revenues.

With those factors included, Sound Transit has projected a funding gap of $11.5 billion to complete the expansion. 

Scott Thompson, public information officer for Sound Transit, said that the “Realignment” project has been a reassessment of the expansion under current fiscal conditions.

“With the decrease in revenues, the Sound Transit Board of Directors is looking at how we can deliver all the projects voters approved in the Sound Transit 3 package. That process is being called Realignment,” Thomson said.

Sound Transit is now in the sixth and final month of the “Realignment” program, where management will outline the priorities and the needs of the project. In addition, the staff will be instructed to prepare final plans of action for Board consideration in July.  

The federal government has also stepped in and provided Sound Transit with some funding.

Thompson said the project is still on budget and on time. 

“The Federal Way Link extension project already has the following federal funding: a $790 million grant from the Federal Transit Administration, and a $629.5 million Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act loan from the U.S. Department of Transportation,” Thompson said.

Even though the pandemic had caused severe issues, Thompson says that they haven’t had any that would delay the project’s completion. 

“The Federal Way Link Extension is scheduled to be completed in 2024,” said Thompson. 

Travelers near Highline and the surrounding region won’t have to wait until 2024 to see changes, however. Thompson said that some additions have already been made at transit stations in the South King County area.

“New accomplishments include the installation of temporary art at both the Federal Way Transit Center and Kent/Des Moines station construction sites,” Thompson said. “[As well as] the beginning of heavy civil construction at Kent/Des Moines station with the construction of drill shafts to support the station.”