US public transit agency Sound Transit has secured key approval from the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) to advance the Federal Way Link Extension to the engineering phase.

The approval takes the project closer to securing a $790m FTA Capital Investment Grant (CIG), as requested by Sound Transit.

The 7.8 mile Federal Way Link Extension project involves extending the light-rail line from Angle Lake in SeaTac to Federal Way. The extension will include three stations along the route.

In 2016, the FTA authorised the project development phase. In the latest approval, the project earned a ‘Medium-High’ rating from the FTA in its annual review of transit projects.

Last year, Sound Transit determined the scope, schedule and baseline budget of the extension to be $2.45bn.

“Light-rail will offer congestion-free travel in the South Sound across a regional system that will eventually extend 116 miles.”

However, after the introduction of additional contingency funding requirement for all FTA CIG, the total project estimate rose to $3.1bn.

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The revised figure includes the cost of procuring 20 additional Link vehicles.

Commenting on the latest FTA approval, Sound Transit board chair and Redmond Mayor John Marchione said: “This is the next step to extend Link light-rail to the heart of South King County and position us to continue onward to Tacoma.

“Light-rail will offer congestion-free travel in the South Sound across a regional system that will eventually extend 116 miles.”

In the following months, Sound Transit will work with the FTA to demonstrate its readiness to deliver the Federal Way Link Extension by 2024.

Initial works are expected to begin this year, with major construction activities scheduled to commence in 2020.

Sound Transit aims to expand light-rail to the U District, Roosevelt and Northgate by 2021. By 2023, trains are expected to serve Mercer Island, Bellevue and the Overlake area.