Our weekly roundup of new and newsworthy transportation projects worldwide.
Port Authority to Study Newark Airport PATH Extension
The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (PANYNJ) has hired HNTB to study and develop a cost estimate for a proposed extension of its PATH subway line from Newark Penn Station to Newark Liberty International Airport, the International Railway Journal reports.
The extension would take the line to the current transfer station on the Northeast Corridor intercity rail line, where riders would transfer to the AirTrain monorail to the airport terminals. The extension would make getting to Newark Airport easier for residents along the PATH route from midtown and lower Manhattan through Hudson and Essex counties, including Hoboken, Jersey City and Harrison. Currently, PATH users must transfer at Newark Penn Station to New Jersey Transit regional trains to reach the airport from Newark.
The three-year study, for which PANYNJ will pay HNTB $6 million, will examine technical and compliance issues and develop a precise cost estimate for the line, which the authority has said will cost roughly $1.5 billion and take five years to build. The earliest construction could begin is early 2018.
Bogota Looking at Ways to Pay for Its New Metro
By now, the Colombian capital of Bogota was supposed to be well on its way toward a planned 2016 opening of its first metro line. Instead, work has yet to begin, its cost has doubled, and it’s exploring its options for paying for it.
The International Railway Journal reports that the governments of Colombia and the city of Bogota now need to come up with $7.45 billion to finance the line’s construction, more than twice the original price tag of $3.6 billion. The total breaks down as follows: $3.6 billion for tunnels and infrastructure, $2.5 billion for stations and $1.35 billion for rolling stock.
An article on the English-language website Colombia Reports last month noted that William Camargo, director of Colombia’s Institute for Urban Development (IUD), told the Bogota newspaper El Tiempo that coming up with the nearly $7.5 billion “will require every effort of financial gymnastics to ensure its implementation and sustainability.”
Those gymnastics could include tax increases, congestion charges and “pre-planned metro user fees.” Support also exists for using public-private partnerships to pay for the 27 stations on the initial metro line.
That line will also be 4 km longer than originally planned after the city of Bogota announced that it would be extended beyond its original planned eastern terminus at Portal de las Americas to Bosa, making it 26.5 km long in total.
According to the Colombia Reports story, the Colombian government has committed to pick up 70 percent of the project’s cost, with the municipal government and fare revenues covering the rest. A news release on the IUD website announced that the Bogota city council authorized 2.4 billion Colombian pesos (just under $1 million U.S.) as an initial payment on the line’s construction on Dec. 10th.
Bogota has an extensive BRT network called TransMilenio, opened in 2000, but it is the largest South American capital city, and one of only three cities with seven million or more inhabitants worldwide, without a metro. Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos has called the metro “a must for Bogota.” The line was first proposed in 2009, but a municipal corruption scandal set the project back several years. Its backers now plan to start construction by the end of next year, with service set to start in 2021.
Montgomery, Prince George’s Officials Await Purple Line Decision
The “cromnibus” spending bill Congress passed over the weekend to fund the government through the fall includes money to help build the Purple Line, a light-rail line connecting Bethesda, Silver Spring, College Park and New Carrollton in the Maryland suburbs of Washington. But whether that money actually gets spent is an open question right now.
That’s because Maryland Gov.-elect Larry Hogan has not committed to following through with the state’s share of the cost.
During his successful election campaign, the Republican Hogan criticized the rail transit projects being planned for the Baltimore and Washington areas, saying the money would be better spent rebuilding roads and expanding their capacity. Since his upset victory over Democrat Anthony Brown, however, he has avoided such direct criticism.
In a Dec. 12th speech before Montgomery County business and government leaders, Hogan said nothing about the Purple Line’s fate, though Bethesda Magazine reported many in the audience sported buttons supporting the $2.5 billion project.
He did address the subject in a pre-speech news conference. As reported on WTOP radio, he refused to repeat his campaign criticisms but still sounded doubtful: “I think it’s great that there will be some federal money, but I’m worried about the state money,” he said.
He did, however, decline to state whether or not the state would go ahead and fund the project, saying “we haven’t even gotten to the budget yet.”
Introducing America’s Newest Rolling National Historic Landmark
And finally, a salute to a transportation facility that’s anything but a new start: The nation’s oldest continuously operating streetcar line has been designated a National Historic Landmark.
New Orleans CityBusiness reports that the St. Charles streetcar line is one of nine sites nationwide being added this year to the list of sites that represent significant contributions to the history and culture of the United States.
The addition successfully concludes a 10-year campaign to add the line to the prestigious roster. St. Charles Avenue Association President Camille Strachan called the listing a high honor, saying, “It connects neighborhoods and is an important component in our city’s history.”
The line opened in 1835 as a mule-drawn street railway connecting the then-independent cities of New Orleans and Carrollton, 13 miles apart. The line was converted to electric operation and given its current name in 1893.
The dark green 1920s Perley-Thomas streetcars that work the line, lovingly maintained by the New Orleans Regional Transit Authority, have become civic icons. Since the 1990s, they have been joined by additional streetcar lines along the Mississippi riverfront and Canal Street.
The St. Charles line becomes only the third rolling National Historic Landmark in the country and the second that still performs the function for which it was created. The East Broad Top narrow-gauge railroad in Pennsylvania, a tourist railroad since 1960, and San Francisco’s cable cars were both placed on the roster in 1964.
Know of a project that should be featured in this column? Send a Tweet to @MarketStEl with the hashtag #newstarts.
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.