The cost of dithering: Bellevue rail delayed to 2023 – Is This Deja Vu?

Just like TransLink and the METRO region, Seattle’s transit authority is dithering on transit planning, which in the end, delays implementation and drives up the costs of new transit schemes.

The problem in Seattle is almost the same as in Vancouver and this is no coincidence as Seattle’s planners have used Vancouver as a model for urban redevelopment and transit planning. The result is telling, as Seattle has built a multi billion hybrid light metro/rail line which is doing very poorly in attracting new ridership. What Seattle’s planners have ignored or did not understand that 80% of SkyTrain’s ridership is forced onto the metro byAi??compelling bus riders to transfer from bus to metro to complete their journey. The SkyTrain metro itself has done a very poor job in attracting new ridership, especially when one considersAi??over $8 billion has been spent on Vancouver’s three metro lines!

Like Vancouver, Seattle’s powers that be refuse to rethink their transit planning and continue on with their costly ‘metro madness’ planning and like Vancouver, dithering on new transit lines will hobbleAi??transit expansion in both regions. In Vancouver, highway expansion is happening at an ever growing pace, while in Seattle, a multi billion dollar highwayAi??tunnel is replacing a rather decrepit elevated highway. In both cases much cheaper light rail was never considered due to the high cost of both cities light metro lines.

The result of this metro madness is very expensive metro lines, high taxes and a growing reliance on the car as the transit system becomes non-user friendly as money earmarked for future transit lines is spent on a few politically and bureaucratically prestigious mini-metro lines..

When light rail is grade separated, either on viaduct or in a subway

it becomes a light metro, loosing much of the advantages of light rail.

The cost of dithering: Bellevue rail delayed to 2023

Posted by Mike Lindblom

Sound Transit executives broke the bad news Thursday the agency has already lost a year delivering the East Link rail line to Bellevue and Overlake — so the trains won’t arrive until at least 2022, or even 2023 if the route includes a tunnel in downtown Bellevue.

When voters approved a 15-year suburban rail construction plan in 2008, the agency planned to reach Bellevue in 2020 and reach Overlake, near the Microsoft world headquarters, a year later.

But the regional transit agency and the Bellevue city government have failed to agree yet on two crucial issues:

* Bellevue wants a tunnel from about Main Street to Northeast Sixth Street, so trains don’t cross busy east-west streets and worsen the traffic congestion. A tunnel costs about $276 million more than a surface line, raising the total to $2.8 billion ($2010). Sound Transit offered to pay $100 million while Bellevue supposedly would raise $158 million, nearly closing the gap.

* A slim 4-3 City Council majority has wanted the trackway to run along I-405 south of downtown, instead of a shorter route alongside the Surrey Downs neighborhood. Sound Transit engineers think the freeway route would add at least $150 million, mainly because it requires more spans of elevated trackway.

Ric Ilgenfritz, Sound Transit project development director, said talks are productive about tunnel cost-sharing, except that Bellevue won’t finish a deal unless the sides agree on the southern approach route.

To some extent, government officials brought this problem on themselves. Intent on winning the 2008 election, the transit board under then-Chairman Greg Nickels avoided a public, bare-knuckle debate about the downtown and southern routes. Sound Transit staff clearly said thenthat cost estimates assumed an elevated line, so tunneling would require more funds.

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