The expansion of Tacoma’s light rail to the Hilltop got a big boost this month from a $75 million grant in President Barack Obama’s proposed budget.
That grant would put the $165 million project just $27 million short of full funding. The missing funds are part of the city of Tacoma’s $40 million share of the project.
The city, with the assistance of Sound Transit, has already raised $13 million through grants. Mayor Marilyn Strickland said this week that much of the city’s remaining $27 million could come from other federal and state grants.
The $75 million federal grant, part of the federal Small Starts program, is not a sure thing until Congress approves the budget later this year. Another $50 million will come from money that Sound Transit taxpayers approved in 2008.
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“The good news is the $50 million from Sound Transit counts as a match, too,” Strickland said. “It makes it easier to get more federal money.”
The city will have to contribute some kind of match, Strickland said, but not all of it has to be cash. The city’s contribution could include in-kind work that various city departments would do to prepare for the project.
The 2.4-mile extension would more than double the length of the existing 1.6-mile Tacoma Link line.
Last year, the City Council selected seven stops for the light rail expansion. The Sound Transit board is expected to review those locations and the route this spring.
When completed, the system will expand north from the current northernmost stop in Tacoma’s Theater District. It would then extend north to the Stadium District, west along Sixth Avenue and south along the Hilltop on Martin Luther King Jr. Way to South 19th Street.
Sound Transit reported Thursday that boardings on the existing Tacoma line were down 4 percent in 2014, coming in at just under 1 million.