Seattle area starts $6.7B light rail and tunnel projects
- The Central Puget Sound Regional Transit Authority (Sound Transit) is entering the assessment and early- development phases for $6.7 billion of light rail projects that will further connect Seattle with its western suburbs, according to the agency's February 2018 Summary of Previous Studies and Plans.
- During the next year the agency will give the public a chance to offer comments on the proposed 4.7-mile West Seattle Link Extension ($1.77 billion), the 7.1-mile Ballard Link Extension ($2.9 billion), and the 3.3-mile downtown Seattle Light Rail Tunnel ($2 billion). It also will conduct an analysis to finalize elements like routes and station locations, according to Engineering News-Record. The downtown rail tunnel will be part of the Ballard extension, which will feature a moveable rail bridge; the West Seattle segment will be mostly elevated and have one river crossing.
- The costs for the three projects are preliminary and remain largely unfunded. Thus far, Sound Transit has established a $286 million engineering budget for the westward Link extensions, and entered into a $24.4 million contract with HNTB Corp. for development services, according to Progressive Railroading. While the transit authority prepares for the massive construction program, Sound Transit will also be tasked with handling a $12.5 million lawsuit filed by Turner Construction. The suit claims breach of contract for work done on one of Sound Transit's light rail stations.
The Link and tunnel projects are part of the $54 billion Sound Transit 3 initiative approved by voters in November 2016. ST3's stated goal is to connect the city's light rail system to more suburbanites, but in the run-up to the vote, opponents of the plan argued that it included projects that were slated for too far in the future — such as those scheduled for completion after 2030 — and that costs would be too difficult to nail down now.
Sound Transit already is facing rising costs on another project targeted for completion in 2024, the Lynwood Link Extension. The most recent estimations have the now $2.9-billion project $500 million over budget. According to Sound Transit, the overruns are due to land and construction price increases, but said that it would work to shave costs where it could.
The Lynwood extension could also be short more than $1 billion in funding if the promise of a federal grant falls through. The project has received $100 million toward that amount, but might not see the balance depending on whether the Trump administration decides to follow through with the rest of the money.
The $13 billion New Jersey-New York Hudson River rail tunnel is facing the same funding limbo after the Trump administration reportedly reneged on a commitment made by the Obama administration to foot half the bill. This follows along Trump's push for local projects to pay for at least 80% of the costs of local and regional transportation projects.
- Engineering News-Record Seattle Sound Transit West Extensions Include Tunnel, Two Bridges
- Central Puget Sound Regional Transit Authority Summary of Previous Studies and Plans
- Central Puget Sound Regional Transit Authority Benefit-Cost Analysis Methodology Report
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