Senators Cantwell, Murray, and Representative Kilmer Announce Major Federal Investment in Tacoma Link Light Rail Expansion

Following repeated urging from lawmakers, Federal Transit Administration approves $75 million in federal funding for the project through its Capital Investment Grant program; Project will extend existing downtown light rail service to Stadium business district, medical facilities, Hilltop neighborhood, improving access and spurring local economy

Washington, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Patty Murray (D-WA), and U.S. Representative Derek Kilmer (D-WA) announced a new $75 million grant from the Department of Transportation’s Federal Transit Administration (FTA) to Sound Transit to expand the Tacoma Link light rail line in downtown Tacoma. This grant is made possible by FTA’s Capital Investment Grant (CIG) program, a program championed by all three Members of Congress. The Tacoma Link light rail expansion will more than double the lines current length, add six transit stations, and improve bicycle and pedestrian access. The expansion will make critical connections to the City of Tacoma’s historic Stadium business district, Medical Mile, and Hilltop neighborhood.

 “By expanding light rail to the Medical Mile, Hilltop neighborhood and the Stadium district, Tacoma commuters will see more transit options for getting around the city because of the Tacoma Link Expansion project. With 127,000 new residents expected in Tacoma by 2040, this project lays the tracks for accommodating new economic growth and better connecting residents to their jobs and community while helping reduce congestion,” said Senator Cantwell.

 “As communities in and around Tacoma continue to grow, we have an opportunity to make sure transportation options for workers, students, patients, and families keep up. Expanding the Tacoma Link light rail to the Medical Mile and Hilltop communities is a major step forward that will increase access to safe, reliable transportation, and facilitate economic development in the city,” Senator Murray said. “The federal government can and should be a good partner to local communities and support transportation solutions—like expanding the Tacoma Link—and I will continue working with my colleagues in Congress to strengthen investments that help make these solutions a reality in our communities.”  

 “Investing in infrastructure projects like Tacoma Link creates local jobs and gives more people new ways to get to work that don’t involve sitting for hours in traffic or shelling out big bucks for parking,” Representative Kilmer said. “This is good news for the City of Destiny because light rail connects workers to jobs, shoppers to businesses, and neighborhoods to each other.  I’ll keep pushing for smart investments in infrastructure that grows our local economy and creates jobs.”

 “I am pleased to finally bring this project, and the associated living wage jobs, to the Hilltop community,” said Tacoma Mayor and Sound Transit Boardmember Victoria Woodards. “Not only will it provide more connection to downtown for people to reach jobs, education, and other services, but the Tacoma Link Extension will also spur dozens of private projects – from housing to restaurants to professional services – that the community has been working toward in Hilltop for more than a generation.”

 Senators Cantwell, Murray, and Representative Kilmer have been vocal supporters of the Tacoma Link expansion for years: Senators Cantwell and Murray successfully advocated for a $15 million TIGER grant the project received in 2015. All three Members of Congress have fought to strengthen investments in the CIG program, which supports public transportation projects in communities across the United States, and were strong supporters of Sound Transit’s efforts to extend the Tacoma Link light rail line, including working to secure the $75 million in funding for the project in the Fiscal Year 2016 federal budget. Senators Cantwell, Murray, and Representative Kilmer pressed Department of Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao in a letter in February to execute the project’s previously approved Capital Investment Grant. In March, Senator Cantwell pressed Secretary Chao on funding transit systems throughout the Puget Sound region in a Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee hearing on transportation infrastructure.


Background on Tacoma Link Light Rail Expansion Project

 In 2008, local residents voted to expand downtown Tacoma’s existing Link light rail system as part of the Sound Transit 2 Plan. The Tacoma Link expansion project, also known as the Hilltop Tacoma Link Extension, is a partnership between the City of Tacoma and Sound Transit. The project will add 2.4 miles to the existing 1.6 mile light rail line, for a total system length of 4 miles, add six stations, relocate the Theater District station, and improve bicycle and pedestrian access. The project will feature transit signal priority and includes the purchase of five new vehicles. The expansion will connect downtown Tacoma to the Stadium and Hilltop Districts, where 25 percent of residents are low-income and 30 percent of households have no vehicle, and will provide access to Tacoma’s “Medical Mile,” which includes major hospitals and medical centers, and five educational facilities serving nearly 17,000 students.

 According to Sound Transit, the Tacoma Link expansion will feature departures every 10 minutes during peak periods and every 20 minutes during off-peak and evening periods on weekdays. On weekends, service is planned for every 10 minutes. Transit trips are expected to increase from 1 million to 3.5 million annually, which would be a daily ridership increase of nearly 85 percent. The City of Tacoma has identified numerous economic development opportunities within a five minute walk of the expansion and Sound Transit estimates this project could result in $320 million in economic development within the community. Sound Transit expects to begin operations of the expanded Tacoma Link in 2022.