Friday, March 17, 2017

Swift Green Line is still on schedule – for now

Within the next two months, construction will begin on the Seaway Transit Center. This facility will be a central hub for Paine Field-area transit service and will serve as the northern terminal for the Swift Green Line. This is a state-funded project and all finances are “in the bank.”

This week’s news that President Trump’s proposed 2018 “skinny” budget does not include many transportation projects already in the pipeline was not a surprise at Community Transit. While the bulk of funding to build the Swift Green Line will come from the federal government, Snohomish County’s second bus rapid transit project is very much moving forward. Presidential budgets are starting points for funding discussions, but it is Congress that writes and approves the federal budget.

Last year, President Obama included Swift II (later renamed the Swift Green Line) in his 2017 budget proposal. Community Transit received a favorable ranking in the Federal Transit Administration’s Small Starts grant program for the project; it just needed funding. Because of the close presidential election, Congress never approved a 2017 budget.

Instead, the federal government has been kept afloat by Continuing Resolutions, which allow regular spending at 2016 levels, but do not include new projects. Not only are the Swift Green Line and Lynnwood Link light rail among these, but there are many transportation and infrastructure projects nationwide that were vetted through their respective federal agencies in this funding limbo.

Community Transit hopes to get a $48 million Small Starts grant approved as part of a 2017 budget or through a 2017 appropriations bill. Just this week, Community Transit staff and board members were in Washington, D.C. pushing for that. They were told by all five of our elected officials – Sens. Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray, and Reps. Suzan DelBene, Pramila Jayapal and Rick Larsen – that they strongly support our Swift Green Line project and were hoping to get such bills done fairly soon.

Community Transit Board members and staff met with Sen. Maria Cantwell
on March 14 to discuss federal transit funding and the Swift Green Line project.
Budget approval will allow for new Swift buses to be ordered and stations to be constructed starting later this year. This would keep us on schedule to open the Swift Green Line in early 2019, about two years from now.

Meanwhile, Community Transit has received a “Letter of No Prejudice” from the FTA, which gives us authorization to spend money now, to be reimbursed later when the grant is approved. With this letter, we are able to start work on one part of the project that is federally funded – road improvements to the I-5 bridge at 128th Street in south Everett.

This summer, we expect to start work creating one new lane approaching the I-5 bridge from both directions that will allow cars to enter I-5 more easily and buses to get across the bridge more swiftly.

There are very real concerns about federal funding for public transportation, and how the Swift Green Line project could be impacted. For now, we’re optimistic that a 2017 funding package will include projects that already have FTA’s approval and there will be no delay for the next Swift.

No comments:

Post a Comment