Our weekly “New Starts” roundup of new and newsworthy transportation projects worldwide.
A Busy Week for Metro Expansion in China
Only a small percentage of Chinese citizens celebrate Christmas, but three Chinese cities got presents last week in the form of new metro lines and extensions. The International Railway Journal ran reports on all three.
The largest metro opening took place on Dec. 28, when a total of 82 km (51 miles) of new lines and extensions opened in the city of Guangzhou. Three new metro lines entered service that day: the initial sections of Lines 9 and 14 and the entirety of Line 13.
Line 9’s 11-station first section runs east-west through the city for 20.1 km (12.5 miles) from Fei’eling to Gaozeng, with an interchange with mainline railroad services at Guangzhou North Station, and the 10-station, 21.9-km (13.6-mile) initial segment of Line 14 runs from Xinhe to Zenlong northeast of the city. Line 13 runs east for 27 km (16.8 miles) from an interchange with an interchange with Line 5 at Yushu to Xinsha, serving several densely populated portions of the city.
In addition to the three new lines, Line 4 was extended southward 12.6 km (7.8 miles) from Jinzhou to Nansha Ferry Port, where connections can be made for ferries to Hong Kong.
Two days earlier, the second biggest metro opening took place in Wuhan, which added 55.3 km (34.4 miles) of new lines to its system in the form of two new lines and an extension. The all-underground Line 8 passes under the Yangtze River on its 16.7-km (10.4-mile) journey from Jintan Road in the north to Liyuan in the south, and the 16-station, 35-km (21.7-mile) Line 21 is the city’s first suburban metro line. Line 1 added a 3.6-km (2.2-mile), three-station extension from Dongwu Boulevard to Jinghe.
Also on Dec. 28, the first metro line in Guiyang opened: the 12.8-km (8-mile), 10-station first phase of Line 1, running east-west from Xiamaixi to Guiyang North Station. A north-south extension from Guiyang North Station to Xiaomeng will open in the second half of 2018 and a second line is also under construction.
Another Delay for Twin Cities Light-Rail Project
A few months ago, the Metropolitan Council of the Twin Cities announced that the planned Southwest LRT line from Minneapolis to Eden Prairie would open no sooner than 2021, a year later than originally scheduled. This past week, according to a news report in the Sun Sailor, a news source for several southwest Minneapolis suburbs, the Met Council pushed that opening back one more year.
The council blamed this latest delay on several factors, including an additional environmental impact review for a crash wall the council agreed to build along the line. That wall, which BNSF Railway requested to separate mainline freights from light rail trains in a corridor the railroad controls between Cedar Lake and downtown Minneapolis, caused controversy in Minneapolis. The Federal Transit Administration ruled that an additional environmental assessment would be needed for the wall because it will adversely affect a historic railroad district.
The delay announced in the fall arose when the council rejected all of the construction bids it received for the project because they failed to meet the conditions called for in the bid specifications. The new deadline for submitting bids is being moved from Jan. 9 to May 3 in order to complete the environmental review.
Even if everything else from this point out goes according to plan, the line could still be delayed further if a federal judge rules in favor of a coalition of environmental groups that sued to force the line to change its routing through Minneapolis. And if the FTA fails to come up with grant funding for half the line’s $1.9 billion cost, it could be scrubbed altogether.
Testing Resumes on Denver’s Third Regional Rail Line
The Denver Business Journal reports that a judge has approved the resumption of grade crossing warning gate tests on the G Line regional rail route between Union Station and Arvada, a move that could lead to quicker removal of flaggers now required at grade crossings on it and a second line already in service.
The flaggers are required because of Federal Railroad Administration concerns about the warning time given by the crossing gates on the existing University of Colorado A Line, which connects Denver Union Station with Denver International Airport. The G Line uses the same gate technology. Testing on the G Line was suspended when the FRA raised its concerns and required the flaggers on the A Line this past July.
The flaggers will be required on the G Line during its testing period, when actual revenue service is simulated. In addition, trains will have to sound their horns at crossings, a requirement that has upset residents of neighborhoods around the crossings.
The Denver Regional Transportation District has submitted a plan for altering the warning times for A Line crossing gates. The FRA is set to consider evidence in support of the plan in mid-March, but the hearing could take place in mid-February if no one objects to written testimony the RTD will submit next week in support of its plan.
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Next City contributor Sandy Smith is the home and real estate editor at Philadelphia magazine. Over the years, his work has appeared in Hidden City Philadelphia, the Philadelphia Inquirer and other local and regional publications. His interest in cities stretches back to his youth in Kansas City, and his career in journalism and media relations extends back that far as well.