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.
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.
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:
- Additional funding for I-405 BRT
- Additional funding for Pacific Avenue BRT vehicles
- Additional funding for Totem Lake RapidRide rider improvements
- Rider improvements for RapidRide from Renton through Newcastle and Eastgate to Overlake
- Construction funding for the Rainier RapidRide corridor
- Construction for “non motorized improvements” at Colman Dock
- Design for Everett Transit’s Operations Center
- Battery-powered Metro buses
- Expanding Pierce Transit’s Lakewood Base
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.”