Boarding Swift and RapidRide buses. Credit: Atomic Taco

On Thursday, the Puget Sound Regional Council’s (PSRC) Transportation Policy Board (TPB) recommended that five transit projects receive additional Federal Transportation Administration (FTA) funding in 2021-22.

The projects were part of a larger disbursement of federal transportation funds, including highway funding, which must be approved in a meeting of the PSRC’s Executive Board on July 26. Area agencies submitted proposals for a competitive bid process earlier this year.

PSRC staff selected the five projects from that group of proposals, and created an additional list of projects, including Rainier RapidRide and Colman Dock, that could receive funding should additional federal funds become available.

Three of the five projects did not get as much funding as they initially requested. Four of the five projects are for BRT, and East Link also got a boost. According to PSRC spokesperson Rick Olson, that’s because the funding competition was remarkably popular. Bidding agencies worked together to make sure that funding dollars could be used to the furthest possible extent.

“The projects that got less funding than requested this round voluntarily took cuts in order to get more projects funded,” Olson says. “We had far more funding requested than was available.”

Link in Redmond

The segment of East Link between Microsoft and downtown Redmond gets $7 million towards the Microsoft and Redmond stations and the guideway between them. According to Sound Transit’s presentation to the PSRC on the project, the Redmond funds will also be applied towards a cycle track near the downtown Redmond station, a bike and pedestrian bridge over Bear Creek, and several trail connections.

Community Transit’s Swift Orange line

Community Transit’s proposed Swift Orange BRT line will eventually connect Edmonds Community College and the McCollum Park and Ride to Link stations at Lynnwood, Alderwood Mall, and Ash Way. Orange is currently in the planning and evaluation stages and is projected to begin service in 2024, will get $5 million to purchase new vehicles and construct stations. The original proposal suggests that funds would purchase seventeen Swift buses, but later documents suggest that the FTA funding would go towards station construction.

A March conceptual map of Swift’s Orange line. Credit: Community Transit.

I-405 BRT’s Burien to Bellevue section

Sound Transit will use $3 million of FTA funds to purchase “18 high capacity buses” for the SR-518 and southern I-405 segment of the new I-405 BRT line. Sound Transit’s bid says that, with the funding, the BRT line will be able to run at 10 minute peak and 15 minute off peak headways.

The I-405 project did not get all the funding that Sound Transit originally requested: the agency applied for $7 million in funding, but only received $3 million. According to PSRC transportation planner Kelly McGourty, the agency won’t buy the full complement of buses, but is on the contingency list in case more funding becomes available. (The exact number of buses will be available when Sound Transit begins the procurement process.)

BRT on Tacoma’s Pacific Avenue & SR 7 Corridor

Pierce Transit has settled on BRT to serve its busiest route, the Pacific Avenue corridor between downtown Tacoma and Spanaway. The agency identified the corridor as a candidate for HCT in 2017, and presented its LPA to its board earlier this month.

The proposal would have bought seventeen vehicles for the BRT line, but PSRC awarded only $5 million of the requested $7 million. As with the Sound Transit grant, some of the buses will be bought, but the remainder will be placed on the contingency list.

Totem Lake-Bellevue RapidRide

Metro received $4 million of a requested $8 million to construct bike and pedestrian improvements for a new RapidRide line that will run from Totem Lake through Kirkland to downtown Bellevue and Eastgate. According to Olson, Metro was able to agree to a lower amount of funding because it secured the remaining $4 million from other sources.

According to the proposal, pedestrian improvements will be within a half mile of a stop, and bike improvements within three miles.

Contingency projects

The TBP also selected a number of contingency projects for funding, in the event that more FTA funding than expected becomes available. In descending order of the score assigned by PSRC staff, the projects are:

How the projects were selected

An extensive review process by PSRC staff measured and scored proposals on metrics including “geographic equity, agency equity, and project implementation.” FTA funds have to be distributed on a basis of “earned share,” which evaluates transit agencies based on current ridership levels: regional FTA funds privilege larger agencies like Metro and Sound Transit, which will receive the most FTA money of regional agencies during 2021-22. (Earned share projects are listed here.)

The money that will be allocated through Thursday’s process is discretionary regional funding left over from earned share funds for capital projects and maintenance. According to McGourty, the funds disbursed on Thursday amount for 3 or 4 percent of overall regional transportation funding.

“[That number] understates the breadth and depth and kinds of projects,” Everett City Councilmember and TPB member Paul Roberts said of the 3 to 4 percent figure. “It’s impressive. If you can get that much bang for 3 or 4 percent, think what we could do if we had 10 percent. I think it really is an impressive list.”

15 Replies to “PSRC assigns federal funds to Link and four BRT projects”

  1. Don’t forget about the FHWA funds. Several transit-related projects are in line to get funds from FHWA.

    Sound Transit – South Sounder Capacity Expansion, $6,700,000
    Community Transit—Swift Orange Line Expansion Buses, $7,000,000
    Sound Transit – I-405 Bus Rapid Transit, Lynnwood to Bellevue, $3,500,000
    Washington State Ferries – Hybrid Electric Ferry Conversion, $6,500,000
    King County – Transportation Demand Management to Support Centers and Regional Service Investments, $3,000,000
    Seattle – Madison Corridor Bus Rapid Transit, $1,840,000

    https://www.psrc.org/whats-happening/blog/projects-running-regional-fhwa-funding

  2. This appears to total just $26M. The agency’s own annual payroll with overhead and benefits is over $22M.

    It’s a sad statement about how little our national transit dollars given to MPOs is so little.

  3. It’s important to ask as a region whether we’re getting more money from feds than what we paying in order to comply with all of the rules and regulations needed in order to be eligible for federal money. For example, paying more than necessary for trains and tracks due to “buy America” requirements, running paratransit to comply with ADA requirements, it all adds up, not to mention all the administration overhead of paying people to put the grant applications together.

    In a world where the amount of federal funding available is getting less and less each year, at some point, dealing with all the extra government bureaucracy, just to be eligible for the funding becomes not worth it.

    1. That was an argument by the monorail project, that “we don’t need no stinkin’ federal grants”, and it was a waste of money to go through the federal EIS process just to get some grant money that mostly went to grant overhead. However, ADA is a law, not a grant regulation, so it would be required in any case.

      1. The monorail guys didn’t go the grant route primarily because they didn’t want anyone to scrutinize their numbers. But they probably should have.

        Cumbersome as the grant process is, it does have its benefits.

    2. I wonder if Federal money is harder to get when spent on non-vehicle necessities like special transit-ways, or at least fully-reserved lanes and signals.

      Mark

    3. Federal funding comes with strings attached, many of which are good and appropriate, including: robust environmental studies, small and disadvantaged business set-asides, and project labor agreements with strong labor protections (along with no-strike clauses as a trade-off). The big drag is the schedule hit for having to step through all these processes.

      Overall, however, the region benefits far beyond the federal taxes paid by citizens here. The PSRC distribution reflects the general taxes people pay, but ST and other agencies leverage far more federal funds by virtue of having funded capital programs. These come primary through New Starts, which will provide 10-15% of ST’s capital funding for LRT, and TIGER, which delivers large grants competitively to cities and agencies with major projects. Tacoma Link is a recent example.

  4. Wouldn’t use late monorail project as an example of anything except how a long unattended community grievance can cause voters to do stupid things to make a point. Or to pick something up and slam it on the floor because it’s all they either feel like doing or can think of that might work.

    If we’d been onto West Seattle-Ballard at the time, lot of card tables would’ve been rusting in the rain before election day. Also, what happens when people who should know better don’t have the guts to put a “Hell” in front of the “No!” Electing promoter with zero experience for CEO, by acclaim, should’ve been Mayor’s pulled plug. Legal or not.

    Same as what loser of 2016 election is doing to our country and the rest of the planet. Too bad Vaudeville’s been dead so long. Because we need a stage-hand hiding behind the curtain with a big long hook. And a free dead cat with every bag of popcorn.

    Natural causes, ASPCA, natural causes. They smell worse that way, too.

    Mark

    1. Thanks, Donde, good to see this. Drive this route often. Always looking for evacuation routes when two drivers block I-5 across the Nisqually for two hours. Pretty sure I’ll find a place to park.

      Mark

  5. ST only got $3M of their requested $7M for 18 buses. Even at the 7M figure that seems really cheap for that many BRT vehicles.

    1. With any luck, the timing will work out that they’ll be able to reuse unused 550 buses until they can get more.

      1. From personally-observed history of public reaction to last War We Were Never Going To Get Into Again, perfect use for all unused 550 buses- can leave the colors on them, too.

        In DC and other places, police would often set up barricades of dozens of city buses front-bumper to back. With our drivers’ operating skill and knowledge, we could make our point about need for right-of-way without a minute’s delay.

        Simply use any curbs containing ST, KCM, and City Hall/SOT offices for linear staging areas meaning return of legendary Wall of Buses, except stopped on purpose, not just trapped in traffic going south on Second and Third, up Yesler, and tunneling northbound at Columbia..

        Since us terrorists, I mean earnestly concerned professionals will have seized LCC- like anybody would fight to get it back or miss it in the Tunnel-will control all dispatch, a 550 will come off the end of the line and into service simultaneously with an inbound bus arriving at the other end.

        Grievance solution and restored curb-space instantly established- because all painters and police will already be in motion painting those lines white and those lanes red, and resetting those signals.

        Historically self-inflicted times, Desperately cruel measures For The System’s Own Good! Sad. Sad. Really Unfair and also Dishonest. BTW: Can I have your really really beautiful extra buses for the Border? And make the Mexicans pay for wraps on the side facing them advertising our new national Day Care program!

        MD

  6. Well, to put it in reverse: any chances having the new buses can motivate our service area to hand over that lane and signal priority? How long our BRT routes have been lamed by the lack of them is worse than not having enough.

    Got to say, hope it’s just distance skewing my observations, but with every meeting, my “take” on the Governing bodies they’re distracted and scared on more matters than this. For transit’s sake, hope I’m really the one in this shape, not them.

    Mark

  7. Sound Transit needs better north south connections. There are hardly any busses going north from Woodinville. One shouldn’t have to make three transfers to go to Everett from there.

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