Seattle Poised for Another Light-Rail Expansion

Seattle Poised for Another Light-Rail Expansion

Othello Station in Seattle (Photo by Oran Viriyincy)

Our weekly “New Starts” roundup of new and newsworthy transportation projects worldwide.

Feds Agree to Give Sound Transit $2 Billion in Loans
Sound Transit, the Puget Sound region’s metropolitan transit agency, has faced criticism over the years for ballooning costs and delays in building a light-rail rapid transit system serving Seattle, Tacoma, Everett, Bellevue and environs. A recent move by the agency is intended to address one of those criticisms.

Railway Track and Structures reports that Sound Transit has received loans totaling $1.99 billion from the U.S. Department of Transportation to secure funds to build three LRT extensions and a new maintenance and operations center. The loans were extended under the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA).

The projects being built with the loans are:

  • $615.3 million for Northgate Link, a 4.3-mile extension of the north-south main LRT line from the University of Washington station at Husky Stadium to Northgate Mall, expected to open in 2021.
  • $657.9 million for Lynnwood Link, which will extend the line an additional 8.3 miles northward from Northgate Mall to Lynnwood Transit Center, expected to open in 2023.
  • $629.5 million for the Federal Way Link project, which will take the line south from South 200th Street at the SeaTac airport to the Federal Way Transit Center. The 7.5-mile extension should open in 2024.
  • $87.7 million for a new operations and maintenance facility for the cars that will operate on the extensions to Lynnwood, Bellevue/Overlake and Kent/Des Moines.

Sound Transit estimates that the TIFIA loans will save the agency anywhere from $200 million to $300 million in borrowing costs over the 35-year term of the package. The agency also said the loan package will insulate it from downturns in the economy.

Metro on the Way in Two More Indian Cities
The government in the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh has signed off on final plans for metro systems in its two largest cities, the Railly News reports. The state cabinet voted to approve the detailed project reports for the first phases of light metro construction in Bhopal and Indore on Dec. 27.

The Indian state of Madhya Pradesh (AP Photo/Rajesh Kumar Singh)

The initial project in the state capital of Bhopal will consist of two lines. Line 2 will run 14.99 km (9.3 miles) from Karond in the north to the All India Institute of Medical Sciences in Saket Nagar, east of the city center, and the east-west Line 5 will run 12.88 km (8 miles) from Bhadbhada Square to Ratnagiri.

The initial project in Indore, the state’s largest city, will consist of one 31.55-km (19.6-mile) line from Rajwada to Nainod.

State government spokesperson Narottam Mishna said that 20 percent of each project’s cost would be paid for by the central government and 20 percent by the state government, with various agencies picking up the remaining 60 percent. One of those agencies was supposed to have been the Japan International Cooperation Agency, but Mishna said that as it did not commit to the project as plans advanced, the state government will seek to replace it with other financial institutions.

Work on both projects is set to begin in fiscal year 2018 and finish within four years.

Thai Provincial Governor Goes Shopping for Light-Rail Ideas
The governor of the island province of Phuket in Thailand recently went on a four-day fact-finding trip to China to learn about possible options for light rail for the resort destination.

According to a report in The Phuket News, Gov. Chockchai Dejamornthan and an entourage of officials and reporters toured the CRRC plant in Changsha, Hunan, to learn about the various types of light-rail vehicles that could be used to equip a light-rail line the state government would like to build.

The article stated that Dejamornthan was most impressed by the battery-powered wireless electric tramcars. He said that the ability to dispense with overhead power lines would make the planned line safer and that the cars’ quick recharge time would avoid long delays in service.

Dejamornthan did not release details of his four-day visit but said he would share his recommendations with the steering committee overseeing the light-rail project.

Despite its current low ranking on the Thai Ministry of Transport’s list of transportation priorities, successive Phuket governors have pushed ahead with plans to build the light-rail line; last July, Dejamornthan’s predecessor, Chamroen Tipayapongtada, expressed hope that work on the line could begin this year. The proposed line would stretch 60 km (37.3 miles) from Tha Noon in Phang Nha province on the mainland to just north of Chalong Circle on Phuket Island itself, serving Phuket Town along the way. The projected cost of the 23-station line is 30 billion baht ($834.7 million U.S.), up from a projected 23.5 billion baht ($653.9 million U.S.) in July.

Know of a project that should be featured in this column? Send a Tweet with links to @MarketStEl using the hashtag #newstarts.

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.

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Tags: transportation spendinglight rail

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