The Works

Seattle Streetcar on Track for Summer Opening

Plus Hungary will join the ranks of European countries where trams and mainline railroad trains share tracks, and more in our weekly New Starts.

(Photo by Richard Eriksson)

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

Planning Begins for Hungary’s First Tram-Train Line
While safety regulations in the United States make it impossible, several European countries have trams and light-rail lines sharing tracks with mainline railroad service.

Hungary is now about to join the list, according to an item in the International Railway Journal.

The site reports that the Hungarian firm of Utiber began feasibility studies last month for a line that would connect Szeged’s tram network with a planned light-rail system in Hódmezővásárhely via the Hungarian State Railways main line from Szeged to Békéscsaba.

The line would begin at a connection with Szeged Tram Line 2 at Szeged-Rókus station. Trams and trains would share tracks from Szeged to Hódmezővásárhely-Népkert, then run through Hódmezővásárhely on a new alignment before rejoining the train line at the city’s main train station.

If all goes as planned, detailed planning and approvals for the 20-billion-forint ($72 million U.S.) project will take place next year. Construction will begin in 2017, and the line is scheduled to enter service in 2018.

The railroad line is currently not electrified. Hungarian State Railways plans to electrify it by 2020, but as plans for this have not been finalized, the line will in all likelihood operate with dual-mode vehicles when it enters service.

Seattle Streetcar on Track for Summer Opening, with More to Come
After delays due to delivery issues, the new dual-mode electric Inekon streetcars that will work Seattle’s First Hill streetcar line are finally on the property, and final assembly is on pace for the line to begin service this summer, Seattle’s Capitol Hill Times reports.

The $130 million-plus line extends from Capitol Hill on the north to Pioneer Square on the south via the First Hill, Yesler Terrace and International District neighborhoods. Most of the line follows Broadway, a major north-south thoroughfare serving residential districts just east of downtown Seattle. The line’s northern terminus at Denny Way is close to a future Sound Transit Link light-rail station, and a station near its southern end connects with Sound Transit Link and Amtrak at the International District station.

Already, Seattle Department of Transportation officials are planning extensions to the line. Furthest along is a half-mile extension north along Broadway to Roy Street, which then-Mayor Mike McGinn announced in the fall of 2012. About half of the $25 million needed to complete the project is in hand, enough to get it through the design phase, but an additional $11.7 million from local sources will be needed to build the line. Talk currently favors a local improvement district that would tax property owners along the line. Once funding is in hand, work could begin as early as March of next year, with completion one year after that.

The city also plans to connect this line with the South Lake Union streetcar line, but as of now, that’s not advanced beyond the talking stage.

Providence Trims Starter Streetcar Line, Seeks Design Bids
Having grabbed a TIGER grant by the tail, Providence is pushing forward with its starter streetcar line, but has given it a trim that also will shave some of its cost before putting the work out to bid.

Providence’s WPRI-TV reports that the city is now requesting proposals for “planning and engineering services” that would include preliminary design work on the 1.6-mile-long starter line from the city’s Amtrak station on the north end to Rhode Island Hospital on the south. In between the two points, the line will serve a major entertainment district and the Jewelry District. It will also come close to the site of a new ballpark for the Pawtucket Red Sox, who are moving into the city; team officials are also supportive of the line.

The cost-saving move: shifting the initial segment’s northern terminus from College Hill to the Amtrak station. The change shortens the initial segment’s length by one-half mile and brings its cost down to $100.2 million from $117.8 million.

The move also better supports the Rhode Island Public Transportation Authority’s plans to create a new transit hub at the Amtrak station, for which it has received a TIGER grant, and permits more frequent service on the line, boosting ridership. The cost savings will also help the City of Providence plug the hole between the $29 million it requested from the feds and the $13 million it received.

The city will hold public information sessions on the line starting in May and will open bids on May 8th.

Know of a project that should be included in this column? Tweet @MarketStEl using the hashtag #newstarts.

The Works is made possible with the support of the Surdna Foundation.

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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.

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