In the last ST Board meeting video, Sound Transit CEO Joni Earl described how stimulus funds could be given to Sound Transit. I learned some interesting facts on how the stimulus package will work in our region. Obviously, these could change as amendments come around, and as the conference committee meets after the Senate passes their bill.
The House Bill:
- Some of the money is going to go through the Puget Sound Regional Council before making its way to agencies. For the highway funds based on the House version of the bill, $60 million of the state’s $530 million would go through the PSRC.
- The PSRC has asked King, Snohomish and Pierce counties to prioritize projects for the $60 million they are going to give out.
- The New Starts money in the House bill will not be new funding agreements, in other words, it’s not going to go to new projects the FTA hasn’t approved yet. Instead, it will either accelerate payments or increase the grants for projects already getting funding from the FTA. This means more cash sooner for U-Link, and could mean a faster start date for North Link.
- The House bill set aside $9.5 billion to be distributed under what Earl describes as transit “formula programs”, for which the House bill, the Seattle-Everett urbanized area should get about $239 million. The PSRC will distribute the money, and Sound Transit would get about $39-$46 million if the money was distributed based on the national formula for service levels. The rest would go to Community Transit, Everett Transit, and King County Metro.
- Another possible distribution scheme is one based on what Earl “readiness to obligate” the money and “jobs creation”. Sound Transit could do better in this scheme, since they have more “shovel ready” projects.
- The $1.1 billion in “rail” cash includes $300 million for passenger rail, some of which could go to the D to M project, and $800 million for Amtrak capital, which Amtrak could send however they choose to.
The Senate version:
- The Senate version has $495 million in highway funds and a very needed $60 million for ferries. 5% of the roads money would need to be spent on Congestion Mitigation Air Quality. That money likely would go to the PSRC.
- The Senate has $8.4 billion to the “formula programs”, which is $235 million for transit in our area.
- A big difference in the two bills, is the Senate bill requires 50% of the funding to be obligated within 180 days and the house bill says 90 days. The other 50% rest would need to be obligated within a year in both versions.
- The Senate version has $200 m for transit agencies to spend to reduce energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions.
- The Senate version has $5.5 billion in grants to state and local governments that could be spent on roads or transit, with priority given to projects that need to be completed within three years. According to Earl, the State DOT Secretarie, ours being Paula Hammond, would have a big role in determining the criteria for these grants. Each grant would be no less than $20 million but no larger than $500 million.
- The Senate bill includes $250 million for grants to intercity rail projects, for which Pt Defiance bypass is competitive.
- There’s $850 million in grants to Amtrak capital, with no more than 50% to be applied in the Northeast corridor in the country.
Here’s the projects Earl thinks are competitive:
- Pt. Defiance bypass (D to M in Tacoma, and M to Lakewood portion)
- Mountlake Terrace Freeway Station
- Tukwila Sounder Station
- Clean Fuel Buses
- University Link
- I-90 two-way transit (the state’s portion has been pushed way out)
- Light rail to Northgate (30% design complete, and environmental record of decision)
- Light rail to South 200th (some design, and environmental record of decision)
- First Hill Street Car
- Operation & Maintenance Base Yard Expansion
Paula Hammond and Joni Earl point out that this bill is to create jobs programs, not necessarily to go to the perfect projects, and if the money isn’t spent by the date, it’ll go to another state or program. Should be interesting.