Our weekly “New Starts” roundup of new and newsworthy transit projects worldwide.
R.I. Governor Pushes for Providence-Boston Express Train
The Associated Press reports that Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo (D) is pressing the MBTA to launch an express commuter train between Providence and Boston. The only problem is: There’s no room to accommodate the new service at the Boston end.
Currently, the only nonstop service between the two cities is provided by Amtrak’s Acela, but Rhode Island officials would like to see more northbound trains than Amtrak currently runs, especially in the morning peak. As Boston’s South Station is already at capacity at the morning peak, the Rhode Island Department of Transportation is examining whether service that arrives in Boston after 9 a.m. can be added.
Currently, it takes more than an hour to travel from Providence to Boston on MBTA commuter rail. An express service would cut 10 minutes off the travel time. The MBTA says it would be difficult at best to add more service on the Providence/Stoughton commuter rail line unless a planned expansion of South Station comes on line, an event that will happen no sooner than 2025 assuming all the pieces are in place. But Raimondo says that talks with the MBTA about possible expansion of service are progressing, albeit slowly.
Four Thai Cities Get Light-Rail Plans in Order
When last we checked in on the Thai resort of Phuket, its provincial governor was shopping around for light-rail vehicles as he made plans to actually start construction on a light-rail line the central government considered a low priority project.
Apparently, the central government decided to go along with the Phuket governor’s wishes anyway, for it is one of four cities mentioned in a Bangkok Post report on progress towards light rail in four Thai cities. The other three cities are Chiang Mai, Khon Kaen and Nakhon Ratchasima, and according to the story, construction will start next year on light rail lines in all four.
Transport Minister Arkhom Termpitayapaisith told the Post that the four projects would be built via public-private partnerships (PPPs).
The 60-km (37.3-mile) Phuket project is furthest along in planning and design. The project’s estimated cost has come back down to the level projected in the summer of 2016: 24 billion baht ($726 million U.S.) Final design plans should be submitted to the Thai Ministry of Transport this month, and the Mass Rapid Transit Authority will recommend that the project be placed on the government’s PPP fast-track list.
Chang Mai University has completed a feasibility study for that city’s light-rail system and recommended two possible configurations for the three-route network. The A system would comprise a total of 35 route-km (21.75 route-miles) combining surface and underground sections at a total cost of 107 billion baht ($3.237 billion U.S.), while the 40.57-km (25.21-mile) B system would be built entirely on the surface at a total cost of 28.9 billion baht ($874.2 million U.S.) The central government’s Office of Transport and Traffic Policy and Planning (OTP) will submit a proposal to the Transport Ministry for approval this month.
The Khon Kaen project is in the environmental review stage. The proposed line will run 22.6 km (14.04 miles) from Tha Phra to Samran, with 16 stations. Projected cost is 15 billion baht ($453.75 million U.S.) OTP Director-General Chaiwat Tongkamkoon said he expects this project to serve as a model for future light rail development in other Thai cities.
The OTP has also completed a design for the Nakhon Ratchasima project, which also has an estimated price tag of 15 billion baht. The Transport Ministry should receive the design from OTP for approval by year’s end.
Feasiblity studies are also under way for LRT projects in Phitsanulok and Udon Thani.
Ukraine OKs Financing for Metro Extension
The Ukrainian government has given its blessing to the Kharkiv Metro’s plan to borrow €320 million ($376.45 million U.S.) from the European Investment Bank (EIB) and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) in order to expand its system, the International Railway Journal reports.
The funds would go towards a 3.47-km (2.16-mile) southerly extension of the city’s Green Line from Metrobudivnykiv to Dezhavinska and Odeska. The project also includes a new depot and 80 new metro cars. The entire extension will be underground, with 2.5 km (1.55 miles) in a bored tunnel and the remaining 959 meters (0.6 miles) in a cut-and-cover tunnel.
The agreement with the EIB will be signed on Nov. 23 and the one with the EBRD should be completed one week later.
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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.