Our weekly “New Starts” roundup of new and newsworthy transportation projects worldwide.
Ontario Makes Major Commitment to Ottawa LRT Expansion
Canada’s Ontario provincial government has put in place the last piece of the funding puzzle for a major expansion of Ottawa’s light-rail transit network.
The International Railway Journal reported last week that Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne announced the province’s commitment of C$1 billion ($770 million U.S.) toward the C$3 billion ($2.3 billion U.S.) needed to complete the “Stage 2” LRT expansion program in the national capital. The federal government had announced its own C$1 billion commitment last July, and the city of Ottawa will pick up the balance.
The funding from the city, the province’s Moving Ontario Forward program and the federal Public Transport Fund will pay for a near tripling of the length of the east-west Confederation Line, the 12.5-km (7.8-mile) “Stage 1” route that is scheduled to open in 2018. The Stage 2 project will add 13 km (8.1 miles) and 10 stations to the line’s western end, with the main line running from Tunney’s Pasture to Bayshore with a branch to Baseline, and 10 km (6.2 miles) and four stations to the eastern end, running from Blair to Place d’Orléans.
Stage 2 will also add five stations and 8 km (5 miles) to the south end of the diesel-operated north-south Trillium Line, taking it from Greenboro to Bowesville.
The province’s funding will also pay for the development of two more extensions totaling 6.5 km (4 miles). One will be a two-station branch of the Trillium Line connecting it to Macdonald-Cartier International Airport and the other will take the Confederation Line from Place d’Orléans to Trim Road.
The funding pledge represents the largest provincial transport investment in Ottawa’s history.
Work on Stage 2, which Ottawa City Council approved in 2013, is set to begin in 2018, and the extensions should open for service in 2023.
Work Commences on Auckland City Center Tunnel
Officials in Auckland, New Zealand’s largest city, formally broke ground June 2 on the City Rail Link tunnel, which will provide service through the city center and increase the capacity of the commuter rail network.
Global Rail News reports that Mayor Len Brown, Auckland Transport Chairman Lester Levy, New Zealand Prime Minister John Key and Minister of Transport Simon Bridges participated in the ceremonial start of construction.
The City Rail Link will run from the existing terminus at Britomart through central Auckland to Mt. Eden station on the existing Western Line. The 3.4-km (2.1-mile), NZ$2.5 billion ($1.7 billion U.S.) tunnel will include two new underground stations at Aotea Square and Karangahape Road as well as a reconfiguration of Mt. Eden station. The tunnel will also allow for future extensions of the system to Auckland’s North Shore and its airport.
Brown noted in his remarks that the regional rail tunnel project had been a long time coming: “This project has been debated and tossed around for more than 90 years. It was first flagged in 1923 by the then minister of railways. Now we are finally pushing the ‘Go’ button.”
The International Railway Journal’s report on the groundbreaking states that the Auckland region is expected to grow by 700,000 residents over the next 30 years and that the commuter rail system as currently configured would be unable to handle the increased traffic without the tunnel. The tunnel should be completed in five and a half years.
Atlanta City Councilman: Fix the Buses First
Now that the Georgia legislature has OK’d a ballot question that would, if passed, raise the sales tax that funds the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA) by a half cent and add another half cent for other transportation projects in the Atlanta area, a member of the Atlanta City Council has put together a wish list of projects to help clarify spending priorities.
According to a story in the Atlanta Business Chronicle, City Councilman Kwanza Hall wants improved and expanded bus service at the front of the line. He called improved bus service “the quickest, least expensive, most impactful way to help those who are living on the margin” — the lower-income riders who make up a majority of MARTA users.
After that, he said, the proceeds should be spent on fixing the Atlanta Streetcar, whose operational woes have led the state to threaten to shut it down. Hall’s proposal calls for fixing switches and signals, creating a unified fare system with that of MARTA and increasing service frequency to every 10 minutes.
Item three on the priorities list is a light-rail line that would follow a portion of the Atlanta BeltLine trail network and serve Piedmont Park, Ponce City Market, the King Center and the Atlanta University campus. The rest of the funds raised by the half-cent transit sales tax would be reserved for future projects in cooperation with Fulton and DeKalb counties.
Hall estimated the cost of his proposals to be $3.5 billion, which is within the range of what the sales tax would raise through 2057.
Hall also proposed $325 million in pedestrian projects and BeltLine trail improvements, representing about five years’ worth of revenues from the companion sales tax.
Hall will present his proposed plan to a committee of the city council on June 7. The committee will finalize the priorities lists and submit them to the full council, which should vote on them by the end of this month.
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The Works is made possible with the support of the Surdna Foundation.
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.