Trump budget jeopardizes South Sound light rail expansion

Funding for South Sound transit projects, including extending Tacoma Link onto the Hilltop, could be in jeopardy under President Donald Trump’s proposed federal budget.

The president’s spending plan, released Thursday, would eliminate federal grant money that Sound Transit was counting on to help pay a substantial portion of construction costs for the Link project and the extension of the Link light rail line from SeaTac to Federal Way.

The extension of the Sound Transit light rail line to Lynnwood could be in jeopardy as well.

Eliminating the money almost certainly would delay construction as Sound Transit looked for other ways to finance the projects. The cuts also could lead to some aspects of the projects being dropped.

“Without federal funding, the board would need to exercise options to address the gap,” Sound Transit spokeswoman Kimberly Reason said Thursday. “Options could include adjusting project time lines and scope, and assuming more debt, which would increase costs for taxpayers.

“Of course, the agency doesn’t have models at this point for how this worst-case scenario would look project by project.”

Sound Transit officials said they planned to work “most aggressively with our congressional delegation to reverse the proposed elimination of these critical federal funds.”

The regional transit agency has planned to seek $500 million in federal money for the $1.5 billion extension of Link from SeaTac to Federal Way, a project Sound Transit had hoped to complete by 2024.

The line eventually would be extended to Tacoma under Sound Transit 3, which voters approved in November.

“The potential to secure those funds would be wiped out under the proposed FY2018 budget,” Reason said.

The fate of federal money for the Tacoma Link project is less certain, according to Reason.

Funding amounting to $90 million “is also potentially at risk for the Tacoma Link expansion, though given the ‘skinny budget’ language, this isn’t clear to us right now,” she said.

Adam Lynn: 253-597-8644, @TNTAdam

Related stories from Tacoma News Tribune