Seattle secures funding for $4bn light rail project

The US Department of Transportation (DOT) is to make a $1.3bn loan to the Central Puget Sound Regional Transit Authority for an extension to Seattle’s light rail system.  

The loan, which is made under the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act, will finance the first 14.5 miles of a 50-mile extension, to be called the East Link Light Rail Project. The cost of the entire scheme is expected to reach $4bn. 

It is forecast that 40,000 jobs will be created by the development, which will connect some of the region’s most populated and fastest-growing areas with the city’s existing system. The railway currently runs from downtown Seattle to SeaTac Airport. 

Anthony Foxx, the secretary for transportation, said: "The East Link Project will give the people in Seattle area better access to jobs, education and other opportunities. This project will have a significant impact on the entire region and expand a world-class transit system. 

"We want to bring these opportunities to other parts of the country, working with Congress to develop a sustainable, long-term funding solution for transit, roads, bridges and other crucial infrastructure." 

Sylvia Garcia, the DOT’s chief financial officer, said: "This project demonstrates the great things that can happen when federal, state, and local partners work together to make critical transportation infrastructure investments." 

The DOT has also announced $75m in Federal Transit Administration funds and $14m in Tiger V funds for the East Link project. 

The Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act was authorised in 1998. The programme was created because transport authorities often found it difficult to secure private finance for schemes owing to uncertainty over their revenue streams. Under the act, the federal government offers loans at below market rates to public sector clients to help them to leverage private capital. 

Construction is expected to begin this year with an opening date of 2023. By 2030, the line is expected to serve 50,000 commuters a day.

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