Several weeks ago, I discussed one way possible way the 48 could be split in the U-District without significant additional cost or layover space in the Montlake Triangle, allowing the inexpensive electrification of the southern segment of the 48. As if on cue (but a complete coincidence!), the Executive’s proposed 2012 budget for King County (enormous PDF of all capital projects) includes a line item (PDF page 309) for filling in the missing 1.6 miles of overhead wire on 23rd Ave.
Unfortunately, before you stand up and cheer, there’s some bad news: this project is externally funded, and the funding is a moderately-long shot. The funding sources identified in the budget are a federal grant and the City of Seattle. For this project to happen, two things must happen: Metro needs to win a $6.9 million
TIGER TIGGER grant, and the city must pass the $60 VLF to afford the $9 million local match. $6.9 million is at the high end of the typical range of TIGER TIGGER grants, but due to the excellent and long-lasting environmental benefits and shovel-ready nature of the project, this project should be very competitive. More after the jump.
The total of $13 million is rather higher than I would have expected based on the conventional wisdom of roughly $3 million per mile for uncomplicated segments of wire; Metro’s spokespeople were vague on why the cost seemed so much higher. I suspect that some of the cost might come from upgrades required to existing substations and other infrastructure on 23rd Ave, which may have changed little over their several decades of use; and also the cost of paperwork and compliance that always accompanies federal dollars.
Metro plans to replace the trolleybus fleet at approximately the current size and composition* in 2014 and 2015 (PDF pages 256 and 272). I’m told that once Route 70 is re-electrified (expected in the spring), Metro will have about 20 spare trolleybuses in the AM peak and seven spare in the PM peak. I would guess the cycle time of the 48S to be about 1:20, so to provide 10 minute headways in the peaks will require at least eight buses in service on that route. Those additional coaches will probably come from other efficiency restructures elsewhere in the the trolleybus network; for example, the Queen Anne-First Hill-Madrona restructure I described achieves higher peak frequencies with fewer coaches than the current network due to its superior design.
Assuming Metro wins the
TIGER TIGGER grant, Seattle’s local match will be required in order for the federal money to be disbursed. The city will probably not be able to come up with the money on schedule unless the $60 VLF passes, and the fate of the VLF is now in the hands of Seattle’s voters. It is possible that if the VLF does not pass, the award could be deferred or the project phased differently, but it’s hard to say at this point exactly how this scenario would play out.
* Actually, there will be five fewer 60′ coaches than currently, because Metro expects to be able to get significantly more platform hours out of new coaches than the unreliable Bredas.