High Costs For LRT In Waterloo Ontario Questioned! Is LRT Being Designed as a Money Pit?

It seems well known light rail advocate, Malcolm Johnston, Ai??is at it again, sticking his nose in other peoples light rail business, butAi??there there is a very good point for his interest in Canadian light rail projects, as they are farAi??more expensive when compared to new build European light rail lines. Also in the fray is David Cockle, the man behind the Leewood/RftV Fraser Valley TramTrain Study, who has real knowledge on the cost of new-build light rail/tram systems in the UK, Europe and Asia and someone who should be listened too.
In Canada, as well the United States, the cost of new light rail lines is steadily increasing, which makes the jobs for those advocating for LRT all the more harder. It is in everyones interest to see that the cost of new LRT lines be reduced, but local planners and engineers seem loath to put any effort in reducing construction costs. It seems they are comfortable over-engineering public transit projects as they see it as a sort of money-pit, that they can grow rich from. This must end or the whole concept of modern LRT as a cheaper alternative to heavy or light metro will end and so will end light rail being considered a viable transit alternativeAi??in North America.
Friday, January, 20, 2012 – 10:10:36 AM


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Experts say there are some cost issues with Waterloo Region’s LRT plans.

Off track

International LRT experts question regionai??i??s per kilometre cost

By Paige Desmond, Chronicle Staff

With the Region of Waterloo knee-deep in an $818 million LRT project, approved in June, two experts have looked at the plan ai??i?? and some things didnai??i??t add up.

David Cockle is project engineer at Leewood Projects in the United Kingdom, a project management and planning firm for rail projects.

He reviewed the regionai??i??s LRT plans and raised a few issues.

ai???The route kilometre cost for the proposed Waterloo light rail system of $43 million is high, especially when one considers that comparable new-build at-grade light rail/tramways in Britain and Europe are coming in at between $23 ai??i?? 30 million (Canadian dollars) per route kilometre,ai??? Cockle said.

The Chronicle found the $43 million per kilometre cost Cockle referred to was the industry standard for describing costs of LRT.

Almost every project looked at, from Ottawa to Edmonton to those in the U.S., references costs in terms of how much each kilometre of track would cost to complete.

Waterlooai??i??s number of $43 million ai??i?? $818 million project cost divided by the 19 planned kilometres ai??i?? fared high compared to other projects.

Malcolm Johnston, a Victoria, B.C.-based transit advocate with 27 years of experience regarding LRT concurred with Cockle.

ai???I do think $43 million/km is quite high, but in North America light rail projects are designed to be expensive,ai??? Johnston, a member of the Light Rail Transit Association, said.

But Nancy Button, director of rapid transit for the region, said the local plan doesnai??i??t fall into the typical equations because it is combined LRT/BRT.

ai???There are shared costs,ai??? Button said.

Included in the regionai??i??s budget, as provided to the Chronicle by Button, was $48 million in contingency costs, about six per cent of the cost of the total project.

According to research conducted by the Chronicle, many LRT projects go over budget, some even double.

In Calgary, a $1.4 billion project was two per cent, or $35 million over budget at yearai??i??s end and expected to be at least six months over timeline.

In Toronto, a project most recently ranked the most expensive infrastructure project in Canada by infrastructure magazine ReNew Canada ai??i?? the Eglinton-Scarborough Crosstown LRT line ai??i?? came in at $8.2 billion after substantial design changes when Mayor Rob Ford took office.

In Portland and Wisconsin, projects were commissioned for as little as $15 million per kilometre, Cockle said.

Button said the region was learning from the successes and failures of other projects in its plans for the system here.

According to the federal government, which is providing up to $265 million in funding for the regionai??i??s project, light rail can cost as little as $5 million per kilometre, while bus rapid transit, planned for Cambridge, could run as low as $100,000 per kilometre.

By those low estimates, the regionai??i??s project for 19 km of LRT and 17 km of BRT would run about $96.7 million.

According to Cockleai??i??s examination of the regionai??i??s plan a number of factors could speak for inflated numbers including large land acquisition costs, the new transit hub two blocks away from the current location of Kitchener VIA Station, high highway and utility diversion works costs, contingency funding and streetscaping included in LRT costs.

The regionai??i??s budget includes $18 million in property acquisition, $86 million for utility relocation and $48 million in contingency funding.

Johnston said Canadian contractors/builders generally lack the expertise for such projects, contributing to cost overruns.

ai???Consultants for a transit project get about 12 per cent of the total price of a transit project, thus it is in their interests to inflate costs,ai??? he said. ai???As we have very few real experts in Canada and the U.S., with modern LRT, most light rail projects are planned by engineers who use very dated building techniques and generally design to modern railway standards and, by so over-engineering light rail projects, greatly drive up costs of construction.

ai???In Canada, the cost of building light rail may be inflated as much as 40 to 50 per cent, compared to similar European light rail projects.ai???

The costs of LRT

Hard Costs

Property Acquisition

$18 million

Civil Works

$106 million

Staging/Enabling Works $69 million

Maintenance Yard

$52 million

Parking; Park and Ride Lots $16 million

Structures $38 million

Utility Relocation

$86 million

Stations $22 million

Traction Power $22 million

Hydro Supply $3 million

Substation Electrical

$17 million

Line Electrical $3 million

Signals $17 million

Communications and Supervisory Control Data and Data Acquisition (SCADA) System

$14 million

SUBTOTAL: $483 million

Soft Costs

Engineering Design

$48 million

Construction Management

$39 million

Design Support $9 million

Construction Change Order Contingency $48 million

Agency Costs

$29 million

Project Reserve

$48 million

Program Management

$14 million

SUBTOTAL: $235 million

Capital Vehicle costs

$100 million


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