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June 1, 2012 at 1:21 PM

RapidRide bus system receives $37.5 million grant

WASHINGTON More than half of startup costs for the last two lines of Seattle’s six-corridor RapidRide bus system will be covered by a $37.5 million federal grant awarded to the King County Dept. of Transportation today.

Combined, $120 million of U.S. Dept. of Transportation grants awarded to the RapidRide program have covered more than half of startup costs for all six lines.

“We’ve been great for the feds to invest in because we’ve been using their dollars quickly and efficiently,” said Ron Posthuma, assistant director of King County Dept. of Transportation. He added that although the initial plans for RapidRide only call for six lines, King County DOT officials might start looking at where another line could go.

“We’re looking to continue doing this if the government wants,” he said.

RapidRide additions won’t be continuing if they don’t, though.

Until RapidRide’s biggest and most recent federal grant yet came through, King County DOT officials weren’t sure if the last two lines could start up on schedule for the fall of 2013. The struggling economy put a dent in sales tax revenues the $72 million project was depending on, but the grant will keep everything on schedule, Posthuma said.

One route, the RapidRide E line, will operate between Shoreline and downtown Seattle while the other, RapidRide F, will connect Burien, SeaTac, Tukwila, Renton, Link light rail and the Sounder commuter rail. The hybrid buses, manufactured in Minnesota by New Flyer, stop along designated business lanes and coordinate with nearby traffic signals in order to get through routes faster.

RapidRide A and B Lines opened in 2010 and 2011, respectively, and currently serve more than 13,000 riders on an average weekday, according to the U.S. Dept. of Transportation. The West Seattle C line and Ballard-Uptown D line are expected to open this fall.

“With nationwide transit ridership at its highest level in five years, the Obama Administration is committed to giving Americans greater options for getting where they need to go,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “The new RapidRide transit lines are an excellent investment in Seattle’s future economic growth and sustainability.”

In the last quarter of 2011, ridership on Sound Transit buses and rail grew 12 percent compared to that quarter a year earlier for an average of 86, 200 boardings per weekday. King County Metro bus service increased 3 percent at the same time.

The RapidRide line A on International Boulevard South attracted more people than the average bus because of its more frequent service and roomier interiors, according to Kevin Desmond, general manager of King County Deptartment of Transportation.

Comments | Topics: A line, E line, F line

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