On Monday, Sound Transit announced that the full funding grant agreement (FFGA) for the Federal Way Link Extension project had been sent for Congressional approval, one of the final steps before the grant is awarded. With $790 million in a direct grant and $629 million available through a low-interest TIFIA loan, the final pieces needed for the project to advance to construction are almost in place. Federal Way Link is expected to cost a total of $3.2 billion, having been adjusted by rising property costs and a competitive construction market.
Federal Way Link has already begun pre-construction work, mainly demolishing structures and relocation utilities, and is set to break ground early next year. This will be just over 11 years after the initial vision was approved by voters as part of 2008’s Sound Transit 2 ballot measure. The project was originally set to terminate at South 272nd Street, but was split into several chunks by the 2010 budget shortfall caused by the recession. The northernmost section, between Sea-Tac Airport and Angle Lake, opened in 2016 with accelerated work, while the rest remained in funding limbo until the arrival of Sound Transit 3. Armed with new funding and a one-year extension of the completion date, the project was restored to go all the way to Federal Way.
The project involves just under 8 miles of grade-separated track that will primarily run along Interstate 5 between South 216th Street and South 316th Street. At the three stations along the route, the tracks will veer west away from the freeway to serve areas with potential for growth: Kent/Des Moines Station at South 240th Street will serve nearby Highline College; South 272nd Street Station will replace the existing Star Lake Park and Ride; and Federal Way Transit Center will have its own station in the heart of downtown Federal Way.
Sound Transit expects that the section of track will carry around 40,000 daily riders by 2035, not including those passing through after the line is extended further south to Tacoma in 2030. A trip from Federal Way TC to Sea-Tac Airport is expected to take 14 minutes, while Downtown Seattle will be 50 minutes away, which is somewhat competitive with peak travel times on Route 577 but slower than off-peak trips on Route 578.
The grant announcement comes a few days after the open house on the project’s station names and artwork. Two of the three stations, Kent/Des Moines and Federal Way TC, will see significant redevelopment as the respective city governments look to build a set of transit-oriented districts. All three stations will have large parking garages, with capacities of 500, 1,100, and 400 vehicles respectively, but Kent/Des Moines and Federal Way TC will both use large staging areas as a catalyst for new development under the platform. Federal Way TC’s station will also be across the street from the Commons Mall, which could hold potential for yet another Link-induced mall renovation, as the area is zoned for denser use.
With Federal Way Link ready to go, Sound Transit will have a few years to prepare for the next pulse of Link projects in the coming decade. Project development for Ballard/West Seattle and Tacoma Dome are well underway, while Everett isn’t far behind.