Seattle's Central Puget Sound Regional Transit Authority (Sound Transit) has announced that a planned light-rail project connecting the city's northern suburbs with downtown is $500 million over budget and six months behind schedule, according to KOMO News.
The price tag for the extension to Lynnwood, WA, was estimated at $2.4 billion but has risen to $2.9 billion due to rising real estate prices and increased construction costs.
Sound Transit officials said there are areas in the design where they could lower costs. Also weighing on the transportation agency is whether the Trump administration will honor an Obama-era commitment to provide $1.2 billion in federal funds for the project.
Seattle has major light-rail projects underway or in the planning stages, a response to population growth there driven by commercial investment from tech companies like Amazon, Facebook and Google. Even so, the area has been plagued with cost overruns for other light-rail projects, as well as some pushback from taxpayers and businesses on the billions spent for expansions.
The $54 billion Sound Transit 3 (ST3) initiative won voter approval back in November to connect the city's light-rail system to more suburbs. However, it was controversial for some business groups because they said future costs for some of the 62 miles of rail not scheduled to be complete until after 2030 were too difficult to project. When election day came, people who lived in apartments and near future transit stations, according to The Seattle Times, were the most enthusiastic about ST3.
Another important Seattle light-rail project, which has also seen cost increases, is a 7-mile stretch over Lake Washington, part of the East Link Extension. The price went up 46% to $712 million earlier this year after a necessary redesign of the floating bridge portion of the project — the first of its kind in the world. Sound Transit approved the $225 million change order after experts expressed concern about the bridge's ability to support the weight of track infrastructure and trains, as well as its seismic performance and traffic flow while under construction, among other issues.
Sound Transit hired the joint venture of STV and Mott MacDonald to manage the East Link project, as well as the Northgate Link Extension, which will connect the northern suburbs of Seattle and the Seattle–Tacoma International Airport. Combined, the projects represent about $5.6 billion of work.