Metro transportation planning and funding delays delayed by Metro board, rail agency

In a letter to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, a group of mayors and mayors’ chairs have called for Metro to provide a funding solution to pay for Metro’s new MetroLink rail line.

“This line will significantly reduce congestion and increase mobility for residents, businesses, and visitors,” the mayors wrote.

The mayors also called for the creation of a new transportation funding mechanism, a new Transportation Policy Advisory Committee, and new funding options for local governments. 

“The current funding solution is insufficient and is not working for all communities,” they wrote.

“We are requesting the creation and funding of a MetroLink Transit Authority to fund the construction and operation of the new rail line and the expansion of the existing line to provide service to residents and businesses within the City of Seattle, as well as the surrounding areas.”

The mayors said they are not opposed to Metro’s plan to use $1.1 billion in federal grants to help pay for the MetroLink project, but said the funding needs to be more flexible to allow for the types of investments that the transit agency needs to make. 

The letter was sent by Mayor Mike McGinn and other mayors who are part of the coalition of mayors, governors, county officials, and mayors who formed the Metro Council in November 2017 to seek to secure $1 billion for MetroLink. 

They have been working to secure that money since March. 

In a letter addressed to the Transportation Board of Directors, the mayors asked for a “transportation funding solution that would provide for an effective, cost-effective, and flexible financing mechanism for Metro” that would allow for different types of funding. 

“[I]f Metro is unable to develop a comprehensive funding solution for the project, we would request that the Board of Commissioners approve a transportation funding solution, which would provide a transportation financing mechanism that would enable the creation, operation, and maintenance of the Metro Link Transit Authority,” the letter read. 

Earlier this month, the board approved Metro’s request for $1,846 million for the construction of the line, but the mayors noted that “the funding provided by the Federal Transit Administration and the state of Washington will only be used for the completion of the project.” 

The mayors asked the board to develop funding options that would support MetroLink as a “local, regional, and statewide transportation program.” 

“We believe that a Metro-like solution that is a mix of federal, state, and local dollars and is based on a sustainable and equitable system will be more viable and effective than a monolithic, centralized system,” they said. 

MetroLink is currently scheduled to open in 2020, but construction of MetroLink is still a work in progress. 

With a total of 3.2 million passengers and a projected $3.8 billion cost, the Metro line is the second largest transit project in the world and will be the largest transit system in the U.S. A public meeting is planned for April 13, 2018 to discuss the proposed project. 

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