Seattle’s Light metro Abandons $507 Million Tunnel

Seattle’s so called light rail system is in reality a light metro system that uses light rail vehicles. Over 90% of the system is grade separated either in subway or on elevated guide-ways.

In the United States, light rail has morphed into light metro and light metro is very expensive when compared to classic light rail.

But our neighbours to the South are finding that light metro is becoming even more expensive and now fiscal constraint is showing its hand.

Seattle’s transit planners, like their brethren to the North love subways and tunneling, but the taxpayer, well that’s another story, as transit planners and their political masters don’t give a damn about the taxpayer.

There is one troubling quote which should give pause to those who support a Broadway subway:

Transit CEO Peter Rogoff is also warning that construction inflation jumped by one-fourth just since 2016, so hard choices lie ahead.
Translation: Cost have increased 25% in just three years!
Troubling indeed, because in Vancouver the 1916 cost estimates fro the Broadway subway have probably jumped by one-fourth as well.
Just a reminder the “light” in Light Rail, means “light” in costs, something that planners in both Vancouver and Seattle have ignored.

Seattle's light-metro uses light rail vehicles, giving it the flexibility to operate on lesser rights-of-ways.


Pricier light-rail tunnels into Ballard and West Seattle fall by the wayside

Mike Lindblom


Seattle Times staff reporter

In a show of urgency and fiscal restraint, Sound Transit board members Thursday abandoned ideas for a $450 million (CAD $ 569.5 million) tunnel into historic central Ballard, a $200 million (CAD $254 million) bored tunnel through West Seattle’s Pigeon Point neighborhood, and a fully elevated trackway in Sodo that would have blocked light-rail travel during construction.

Cheaper options that serve the same number of passengers and will still cost hundreds of millions of dollars will now gain momentum during environmental studies — notably a simpler Ballard tunnel to 15th Avenue Northwest, favored by Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan.

Politicians on the 18-member board have entertained dozens of alignment concepts since 2016, when voters passed the $54 billion (CAD $ 68.4 billion) ST3 tax measure to expand regional rail and bus services. The agency promised West Seattle stations in 2030 and stations from south downtown to Seattle Center and Ballard by 2035.

As the wish list swelled, some scenarios threatened to delay grand openings, add complexity, and boost the $8 billion budget estimate by a $2 billion (2014 dollars) within the 12-mile Seattle corridor. Some of those, including 200-foot-deep train platforms for International District/Chinatown Station for an expanded station and tunnel, or a tunnel from West Seattle Golf Course to Alaska Junction, remain on the study menu. Seattle is likely to seek “third party funding,” yet to be identified, for local upgrades.
Adding pressure, Tim Eyman’s Initiative 976 on the Nov. 5 ballot seeks to slash car-tab taxes to $30 statewide. Even if voters or the courts side with Sound Transit against the Eyman ballot measure, state lawmakers may consider car-tax cuts.
Transit CEO Peter Rogoff is also warning that construction inflation jumped by one-fourth just since 2016, so hard choices lie ahead.


One Response to “Seattle’s Light metro Abandons $507 Million Tunnel”
  1. Haveacow says:

    We have the same problem here in Ottawa as well, as we build stage 2 of LRT, the future stage 3 which was going to include a 11-12 km extension to Kanata and Stittsville may have to be only half as long as originally envisioned.

    The first section of this line extension is an arrow straight 6 km section of track that, ran at the surface from the western terminal stage 2 station at Moodie Drive heading west (requiring only 2 or 3 bridges over major cross streets), running in the long planned former right of way which had been designed and planned for our Bus Transitway. The right of way runs parallel east-west on the north side of Hwy. #417 (part of the Trans-Canada Highway Network) towards the business core of Kanata. This section was simple, long planned for and relatively speaking, cheap.

    Once the extension had left the core business area of Kanata it would head west towards the Canadian Tire Centre (where the Ottawa Senators play), requiring a massive bridge over Hwy #417, then swing south around that property, in another proposed Transitway right of way between Kanata and the Community of Stittsville, continuing south towards Hazeldean Road and a massive planned mall and community sub-centre.

    Unfortunately, from the point the track had to cross over Hwy. #417 (because the Canadian Tire Centre is on the south side of the highway #417) the entire right of way would have to be on a raised viaduct to almost the end of the line. The 4-5 km long, north-south running, portion of land between Kanata and Stittsville, which had been proposed by the developer as a Transitway right of way is a giant poorly drained bog. This is probably why the developer offered it as a rapid transit corridor, they either wouldn’t or couldn’t build housing on it. That short 4-5 km section alone would cost about $1 Billion. That wouldn’t include the bridge over Hwy. #417 and the massive multiple story station structure required at the Canadian Tire Centre.

    When the total planned cost of $ 1.8 Billon was announced most people were used to hearing big numbers because of the cost of stage 1 and 2, and ignored it saying that, “Kanata had to finally, be connected to the Rapid Transit Network”. However, the cost is now estimated to be $2.4 Billion and rising, with the portion of ghe proposed line from the Canadian Tire Center south to Hazeldean Road being 70% of that cost. It’s believed that anything past the CTC (Canadian Tire Centre) is now relegated to a future stage extension (Stage 5 maybe).

    With the talk of the Ottawa Senators moving to Lebreton Flats and its already existing stage 1LRT stations, Pimisi and Bayview, the bridge and viaduct extension over the highway #417 towards the CTC (including its massive station), may also be in doubt. So the Kanata LRT extension may not go beyond the central area of Kanata, which in my opinion, for now, would be fine.

Leave A Comment