Sound Transit reported some positive news today when the agency announced it expected $ 500 million in federal funding to be saved. Polly Trottenberg, Deputy Secretary of the United States Department of Transportation (USDOT), joined the announcement in Downtown Redmond.
The $ 500 million saved came from a loan package under the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) program administered by the US Department of Transportation. Five current TIFIA loans are being refinanced along with a new TIFIA loan authorization to expand Downtown Redmond Link for a total of $ 3.84 billion. All loans benefit from historically low interest rates, resulting in large long-term savings.
TIFIA’s five current loans include the Northgate Link, East Link, Lynnwood Link and Federal Way Link expansion, and the Operations and Management Facility East in Bellevue.
“This is the largest loan package that USDOT has ever approved for a single borrower,” Trottenberg said. “I think it just shows our enormous commitment to expanding transit throughout the country and to growth and innovation in the region.” She also added that the full suite of projects “provides for the creation of 30,000 direct jobs and 60,000 jobs through increased economic activity.”
Speaking on the news, Sound Transit CEO Peter Rogoff announced the deal. “This historic expansion of our TIFIA partnership with USDOT will save more than $ 500 million for taxpayers in our region, helping us implement the largest transit infrastructure program in the country as quickly as possible,” he said. “As our population grows and our planet warms, the stakes are high and we are creating really meaningful benefits. We thank USDOT and our Congressional delegation for their dedicated leadership in making our transit expansion possible. ”
Earlier this summer, Sound Transit offered to save by refinancing a TIFIA loan and a new TIFIA Downtown Redmond Link loan. can range from $ 70 to $ 380 million… Still, according to today’s announcement, the $ 120 million savings exceed even the most rosy estimate.
These savings will certainly be helpful in financing the Sound Transit 3 (ST3) capital program, which in It was assumed that in July the financial inclusion deficit will amount to 6.5 billion dollars.… Today’s announcement should mean that the accessibility gap will be closed, but how much of that is unclear.
“While we are conservatively stating that USDOT’s actions will bring taxpayers more than $ 500 million in savings, this is not an unambiguous mathematics in terms of how the accessibility gap will change,” said Jeff Patrick, Sound Transit’s deputy executive director of communications and external affairs. “This is because some of this savings will occur in the coming years, when we do not exhaust the loan limits. But most of the savings will go towards narrowing the affordability gap, which is certainly very good news. ”
Patrick also said Urbanist that the agency will receive updated financial projections in the fall that include savings on TIFIA loans. This information will include the actual interest that was applied to the loans when they were officially closed.
While narrowing the availability gap remains unknown, such savings are critical to bringing ST3 projects closer to their original deadlines.
This month the agency’s board of directors approved hybrid reorganization for ST3 program… This reorganization was accompanied by two sets of adjusted project timelines: an available timeline and a target timeline. The latter are the most reliable and keep most projects on or near their original deadlines, except when “planning delays” push projects back and parking projects bifurcate and push back towards the end of the program.
Looking ahead, Sound Transit will have other opportunities to bridge the accessibility gap, including individual projects competing for grants through USDOT. A bipartisan infrastructure law (the Infrastructure and Jobs Investment Law) could speed up the speed and number of grants an agency could qualify for, as it would essentially double the annual funding level for Investment Grant Program supporting transit expansion projects. Sound Transit also said federal formula grants to the agency during fiscal 2026 will increase to $ 360 million, about $ 50 million more than anticipated.
Every little additional funding will make it easier to move transit projects forward, especially as the agency is struggling with other instruments such as design and construction savings.