The Works

New London Rail Link Could Break Ground in 2020

Plus Minnesota officials stall on light-rail money, and the city of Ottawa endorses a train to the airport in our weekly New Starts.

As London’s massive Crossrail tunnel project, above, nears its opening day, Transport for London is preparing the way for its companion. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)

Our weekly roundup of new and newsworthy transportation projects worldwide.

Minneapolis LRT Line Runs Into Trouble
In Washington, Democrats and Republicans agree on almost nothing these days. In Minnesota, however, it appears Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton and the Republicans who will control the Minnesota House are in agreement on one thing: The state shouldn’t ante up its share of the $1.6 billion needed to build the proposed Southwest Light Rail line from downtown Minneapolis to Eden Prairie, at least not for the time being.

The reasons why both parties oppose this, however, differ.

The Republicans ran on a pledge to spend less money on rail transit and more on roads. Dayton isn’t willing to sign any checks until the various parties squabbling over the line’s route agree on what it should look like, Minnesota Public Radio reports.

Last week, Next City Works columnist Rachel Dovey covered the controversy involving the Minneapolis Park Board around a proposed tunnel for the route in “In Light Rail Fight, One Person’s Swampland Is Another’s Parkland.”

Both Dayton and incoming House Transportation Committee Chair Tim Kelly have made similar statements about holding off on funding the project. “It’s really difficult to get behind a project where you don’t feel it’s even ready and agreed upon between the parties that want the project,” said Kelly. Dayton said that if the parties involved can’t reach agreement on the line’s routing, the state may simply opt to add bus lanes to nearby highways.

Should it make it to construction, the Southwest line would be the most expensive transportation project in Minnesota history, with the state picking up at least half the tab for it. And that $1.6 billion price tag could change, depending on what the Park Board does.

Ottawa Officials Endorse O-Train Airport Extension in Principle
Canada’s national capital is the poster child for how to expand rapid transit capacity by building on previous successes. When its Transitway bus rapid transit facility drew so many riders that buses were crawling on its downtown segment, the city moved to upgrade it to a light-rail transitway with a downtown subway component. As it did this, it also turned an unused railroad line into a new LRT service using diesel-powered trains.

Now, according to CBC News, the city is ready to consider the notion that a planned extension of the diesel O-Train line should be extended farther, to Macdonald-Cartier International Airport.

Both the City of Ottawa and its airport authority say a spur to the airport is a good idea. They just need to make sure they can afford to build it.

And they won’t know that until they can put a price tag on the spur off the planned “Trillium Line” extension.

“No question it’s a great idea but our current plan for phase two of light rail doesn’t include it,” Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson told the CBC.

The city says the airport will also have to chip in toward the cost of the project, just as happened when Vancouver extended its SkyTrain to its airport.

An unscientific poll on the CBC website shows area residents strongly favor the extension: As of Jan. 19th, 62.5 percent of respondents said they favored an airport rail link “no matter what” and another 29.4 percent said they supported it “if the cost isn’t crazy.”

London Starts Down Path to Second Crossrail Route
As London’s massive Crossrail tunnel project nears its opening day, Transport for London is preparing the way for its companion.

The International Railway Journal reports that London’s transportation planning agency has awarded a contract for the initial feasibility study for Crossrail 2 to a consortium of Hyder Consulting, Arcadis Europe and EC Harris.

The purpose of the study is to identify and develop cost estimates for a preferred route for the northeast-southwest rail link through central London. Like its predecessor, Crossrail 2 will enable regional rail services from outer London suburbs to move rapidly through the city center. Plans call for a 36-km route with 15 new stations, 13 of them underground and two on the surface. Connections to mainline railway and London Underground services will be made at Euston, Tottenham Court Road and Victoria.

Once the feasibility study is complete, its recommendations will be taken to a public consultation prior to a Comprehensive Spending Review application to the UK Department for Transport.

If all goes according to plan, the project should receive the necessary approvals by the end of 2017 and construction should begin in 2020.

Know of a project that should be featured in this column? Tweet @MarketStEl using 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.

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Tags: light railminneapolislondonairports

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