Sound Transit officials are the latest group to be hurt by the ongoing federal government shutdown—the Federal Transit Authority isn’t returning their calls. As a result, the agency’s environmental review process for the West Seattle-Ballard Link line could be delayed.
The shutdown, engineered by President Donald Trump, has required Federal Transit Agency (FTA) employees to go on furlough, according to Sound Transit officials. Sound Transit can’t proceed in the environmental review process—which is supposed to start with a 30 day public comment period in February—without FTA participation.
“We hope it will be in February, but we can’t give you a specific date yet, because we have to talk to the federal government, and they won’t return our calls,” said Sound Transit project lead Cathal Ridge, adding later that FTA officials have been furloughed due to the ongoing government shutdown.
The planned timeline projects the draft environmental statement—the result of concurrent work on state and federal environmental review processes—to be published in late 2020, and the final environmental impact statement to be released in 2022. Final design would come between 2022 and 2026, after Sound Transit identifies and acquires parcels through purchase or eminent domain.
Sound Transit wants to present one alignment that could be built using existing funding, and another that would require additional funding from a third party (like the City of Seattle, King County, the State of Washington, or Port of Seattle) to the agency board this spring. As CEO Peter Rogoff told STB, the agency hopes the dual track, and a tantalizing, luxe alignment, will entice funding out of an area government.
The process of laying out those alignments continues. In a presentation last night, Sound Transit officials asked West Seattle-Ballard stakeholder advisory group members (in true Seattle Process fashion) to prepare to choose two alignments in March.
Advisory group members had lots of questions about third party funding. Advisory group member Steve Lewis, of the Alliance for People with disAbilities, asked who or what third party would step up.
“We’re not fussy about that part of it,” said Ridge, “but I think the obvious parties are, of course, the city and the county. They come to mind, but I don’t want to say it’s an exclusive list.”
Ridge also said that Sound Transit was open to private funding, but not actively searching for private contributions.
Earlier in the day, a city source said it is “too early” for the city to start working on a funding plan. They did suggest that Sound Transit’s pending Level 3 cost estimates, which are expected to be released in February, will stimulate discussion in City Hall about additional funding.
After the presentation, several advisory group members separately expressed frustration about the lack of costing at this point in the group’s process. “It would really help us make decisions,” said one member.
Even with environmental review looming, it’s unclear how set Sound Transit is on the present alignments. I asked spokesperson Kimberly Reason if the three Level 3 alignments were 75% complete. Reason demurred, saying that the agency “didn’t want to put a number” to the extent that the designs are finished.
Ridge echoed the same point, saying that stakeholder advisory group and elected official groups still have the opportunity to make significant changes to alignments, including “mixing and matching” elements of each.
He also said that hypothetical third party funding deliberations could also further change alignments, even after the environmental review process has begun.
8 Replies to “Federal government shutdown adds uncertainty to ST3 planning”
“ … several advisory group members separately expressed frustration about the lack of costing at this point in the group’s process.“
The lack of data — not only costing but ridership, segment loads, farebox recovery, transfer walk times — means that people are making recommendations without data . This is no way to decide how to spend billions to reshape Seattle.
The shutdown is because we have someone in DC governing without decisions based on logical data. Why does ST expect locals to make decisions the same way?
Al, sixty miles away and just waking up, so have to rely on second-hand sources, all admittedly flawed and biased. I’m seeing public transit in good operating condition, and able to take this years’ predicted uncertainty as it comes. Let alone its evil newly-arrived twin from back East.
Across the 4,000 miles from the District Line, we can call this an emergency drill to see how well we can continue to run our system til communications are restored. Inauguration Day 2021 – survivable. Excellent chance to treat massively displaced-persons problem as the State-wide Emergency it really is.
Phone call to Sound Transit just told me this Sound Transit has no plans to ask for volunteers to help with on-the-spot public information starting this weekend. Doubt I’m the only one planning on showing up anyhow if we physically can.
System-, County-, Region-, State-, and Nationwide, think a lot of us will spend at least next two years as de-facto independent Federal contractors keeping our homeland functioning. Expecting that our back wages will include a restored country.
But also, if you live in Sound Transit service area, outcome you want probably means at least one ST Boardmember in need of replacement. Doubt you’re the only one in your District who agrees. One way or another, campaigns are always really “Crowd-Funded”, aren’t they?
And honest, man, just contributing as you do….you’re setting a badly-needed example.
“Sound Transit officials asked West Seattle-Ballard stakeholder advisory group members (in true Seattle Process fashion) to prepare to choose two alignments in March.”
I hope ST doesn’t just rubber-stamp these and abdicate its responsibility to make sure the alignment is reasonable from a passenger standpoint. The advisory groups don’t seem to understand transit and are headed toward that worse-than-bad 14th Ave NW station unless they change their mind.
The US House will be voting on the THUD piece of appropriations funding for FY19 this afternoon (H.R. 267). Trump has vowed a veto on these House appropriations as well.
This is what’s included in H.R. 267 for the capital investment grants:
“For necessary expenses to carry out fixed guideway capital investment grants under section 5309 of title 49, United States Code, and section 3005(b) of the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act, $2,552,687,000, to remain available until September 30, 2022: Provided, That of the amounts made available under this heading, $1,315,670,000 shall be available for projects authorized under section 5309(d) of title 49, United States Code, $543,500,000 shall be available for projects authorized under section 5309(e) of title 49, United States Code, $568,000,000 shall be available for projects authorized under section 5309(h) of title 49, United States Code, and $100,000,000 shall be available for projects authorized under section 3005(b) of the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act: Provided further, That the Secretary shall continue to administer the capital investment grants program in accordance with the procedural and substantive requirements of section 5309 of title 49, United States Code, and of section 3005(b) of the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act.”
Just for comparison sake, this is what got pushed thru in the bipartisan appropriations deal (to finish up funding for FY18) struck last March:
“CAPITAL INVESTMENT GRANTS
For necessary expenses to carry out fixed guideway capital investment grants under section 5309 of title 49, United States Code, $2,644,960,000 to remain available until September 30, 2021: Provided, That of the amounts made available under this heading,
$2,252,508,586 shall be obligated by December 31, 2019: Provided further, That $5,050,000 from unobligated amounts appropriated for the buses and bus facilities program under section 5309 of
such title from fiscal years 2000 to 2005 shall remain available until September 30, 2021 to carry out section 5309: Provided further, That of the amounts made available under this heading,
$1,506,910,000 shall be available for projects authorized under section 5309(d) of such title, $715,700,000 shall be available for projects
authorized under section 5309(e) of such title, $400,900,000 shall be available for projects authorized under section 5309(h) of such title: Provided further, That the Secretary shall continue to administer the capital investment grant program in accordance with the procedural and substantive requirements of section 5309 of
To the eds: you buried some really important content under a deadline about the government shutdown. This is post is actually about the Level 3 screening process and big scope & budget differences. Anyone looking for the latest on that would miss it if they were eye-rolling Trump’s shutdown nonsense. Does STB plan a more detailed post on the ST material linked here?
We covered the Level 3 alternatives in November: https://seattletransitblog.wpcomstaging.com/2018/11/19/st3-level-3-alternatives/
There doesn’t seem to be much new in this deck except “tunnels are expensive” which we already knew. Am I missing something?
Future federal funding should never be considered. It should be only factored in when the money is already given.
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