Tacoma Link Expansion Image: Sound Transit

With the Tacoma Link Extension design at 60 percent, the Sound Transit Board has approved a baseline budget of $217.3 million for the light rail expansion project, 25% more than previously estimated.

By 2015, Sound Transit had already grown the project from a 1.3-mile expansion with two new stations in 2008 to a 2.4-mile extension with six new stations. At the end of the preliminary engineering stage of the project, the agency submitted a cost of $175 million for the extension.

“That [$175 million] reflected the scope at the time, at a very preliminary level of design and the market conditions suitable for that year,” Madeleine Greathouse, a construction management specialist with Sound Transit, told the board at its September 28 monthly meeting. “The baseline estimate before you today is based on the latest information with regard to current market conditions as well as the evolution of design from earlier stages of planning and scope refinements.”

Greathouse emphasized the cost estimate was still within the range identified in ST2 when escalated to year-of-expenditure dollars.

According to Kimberly M. Reason, spokesperson for Sound Transit, further design refinements between the preliminary engineering and 60 percent design stage included “changing from ballast to embedded track at the Operations and Maintenance Facility, larger track power substations and associated equipment and utilities, and increased quantities of Overhead Catenary Supply poles.” And additional engineering from the city found the need to install 40 new ADA curb ramps not previously identified.

“Real estate acquisition was not a significant driver of cost growth as the project does not require complete or full parcel acquisitions,” added Reason in an email.

Reason said construction costs in labor, material and equipment also increased compared to earlier estimates.

The 2.4-mile at-grade extension connects the Theater District in downtown Tacoma to the Hilltop neighborhood and St Joseph’s Hospital. The project adds six stations to the existing system and relocates the existing Theater District Station.

The project will also add five light rail vehicles (LRVs) to the system, bringing the total to eight, and expand the existing Operations and Maintenance Facility East to accommodate the additional LRVs. The extension requires the relocation of water and power lines, sewage pipes, and storm utilities out from under the track along the alignment. And Sound Transit plans on constructing four new traction power substations (TPSS) to power the overhead contact system.

The project will be completed as a design-bid-build contract package, as distinct from the design-build method Sound Transit has recently been using in an effort to expedite projects by selecting one contractor to both design and build the project.

Funding for the project is coming from three sources. The city of Tacoma is contributing $48 million with Sound Transit providing roughly $94 million. The rest of the money, $75 million, is coming from a Small Starts Grant from the Federal government. Greathouse said the agency recently learned that grant will be executed by the end of the year.

During a risk assessment, Sound Transit determined with 80 percent confidence the Tacoma Link Extension would begin operating in May 2022. Sound Transit anticipates a final design by the first quarter in 2018.

Greathouse said with construction yet to begin there are several risks before the agency. The top four risks have been identified as:

  • Additional required roadway improvement and modifications.
  • Unidentified utility conditions.
  • Non-signalized intersections.
  • Construction bids could exceed engineer’s estimate.

Actions by the board also approved changing the name of the project to the Tacoma Link Extension rather than calling it an “expansion” and approved names the future stations which are:

  • Old City Hall – 7th and Commerce.
  • Stadium Way/S 4th – Stadium Way and S 4th S.
  • Stadium District – N 1st St and N Tacoma Ave.
  • Medical Center North – MLK Way and Division Ave.
  • 6th Avenue – MLK Way and 6th Ave.
  • Hilltop District – MLK Way and S 11th St.
  • Medical Center South – MLK Way and S 19th St.

Correction: Station naming is still in progress, the Sound Transit Board is expected to hear the recommendations later this fall.

49 Replies to “Expanded Scope and Rising Costs for Tacoma Link”

  1. This Tacoma component is going to be ST’s biggest failure. I used to think streetcars were quirky and fun (come on, I grew up on the Waterfront Streetcar!), but over the past few years I have come to realize they are mostly garbage. This line seems to be a case study for the “why you don’t do this” thesis in the articles this blog linked to last week.

    Quirky and fun is tolerable for a neighborhood like SLU where, while maybe wasteful, it can be afforded. In Tacoma’s Hilltop people just need effective and affordable. My god, Pierce Transit can barely pay for bus service.

    1. I was thinking the same thing. $217 million is a lot of money. That would pay for a lot of bus service, along with a lot of improvements to make those buses run faster. I will be very surprised if these trains ever have the kind of capacity that requires rail. I feel really bad for Tacoma — they can least afford to waste time on these sorts of boondoggles.

      1. How much do you think $217 would pay for in BRT routes? We could probably get grade separated BRT with off board payment and real time arrival signs all the way for Routes 1 to 4, at the very least…

      2. Sorry, I meant to say

        “I will be very surprised if these trains ever have the kind of ridership that requires the extra capacity of rail”

        That certainly isn’t the case now. These max out at well under 50 people (as of the last service report). I really doubt that adding these extra stops will produce a route that would result in crush loading a bus.

      3. I don’t believe there was a direct financial contribution from Tacoma. The City of Tacoma was responsible for contributing $40 million, but they covered most of that via grants, and the last $6-7 million via in-kind contributions. There is, of course, an indirect Tacoma contribution via the Sound Transit funding.

      4. Not grade separated – that’s more expensive than tearing up pavement to put in rails. But it would certainly pay for BAT lanes, off-board payment, and other RR+ type improvements.

        ST3 is in fact doing this with route 1 improvements, but yeah would have been nice to get this with ST2 money.

        Tacoma’s problem isn’t that Tacoma Link is really their version of the SLU-First Hill streetcar (which it is). It’s that they don’t have a Move Seattle type levy in addition to ST1/2/3, and that once ST3 is fully built out, they only end up with one real HCT station (Tacoma Dome).

        I don’t think Tacoma Link will be a failure, it will just be a … streetcar.

      5. Right, there’s no Move Tacoma. It’s difficult to get PT measures approved because the recent ones failed, same as the Metro ones. It’s easier to get ST measures approved. Tacoma is paying to extend the free fare on Tacoma Link until the ST2 extension is complete, similar to how Seattle is paying for the night owls after Metro stopped funding them.

      6. Tacoma’s problem isn’t that Tacoma Link is really their version of the SLU-First Hill streetcar (which it is). It’s that they don’t have a Move Seattle type levy in addition to ST1/2/3, and that once ST3 is fully built out, they only end up with one real HCT station (Tacoma Dome).

        Yeah, that’s one way to look at it. I guess I would say that the problem is that they didn’t put ST 1/2 money into Move Seattle type projects, and instead put it into a streetcar that actually costs more. They made a bad choice, and because they can’t seem to pass any transit measure on their own (they are dependent on Seattle votes) it seems like they won’t have an adequate transit network for a very long time. I have a feeling the streetcar will be the equivalent of Ice Town on Parks and Rec.

      7. Pierce Transit measures actually pass when you look at just the City of Tacoma. They fail terribly in suburban Pierce County, where transit service is absolutely horrible and is generally useless for most residents. Tacoma should take over its transit network. Dump Fife, UP, Ruston, Lakewood, Milton, Edgewood, DuPont, Parkland, and Puyallup, fund their own in-city transit by passing a ballot measure, and let those pathetic car-centric suburbs fend for themselves. They would save money by not running empty buses on long routes out to the sparse suburbia.

      8. Agree – it seems those suburbs are better served by remaining in the ST district, where they get commuter oriented express bus service to Sounder stations and job centers, and Tacoma can focus on all-day transit in a more urban area. I could see a few areas outside of Tacoma still merit inclusion (Ruston? Parkland, see atenhaus below), but I’m not as familiar with the county. Politically, it seems pretty straightforward to simply shrink Pierce Transit’s tax & service area, particularly if it was coordinated with ST.

    2. @Engineer

      The residents of Parkland absolutely depends on its transit service and consistently voted for PT’s ballot measures. Route 1, PT’s most productive route, cuts right through the middle of Parkland via Pacific Ave. Putting them out in the cold would be a very callous move.

  2. No surprises on costs. Considering pathetic amount of certainty underlying anything in the world right now, probably best to make Value Engineering a permanent part of the project. Meaning carefully re-examining every move, so as to be prepared to keep moving either slower or in another direction.

    Agree about Design Build vs. Design Bid Build. Didn’t most things used to be Design Build? Incidentally, which mode gave us the elevator at Sea-Tac station? But either mode, huge amount depends on which designer we hire. Whatever process gave us the Breda fleet…can we use the other one?

    One short segment of the line, I’m really curious about, because I think whole project, and passengers, could live or die over whether a loaded streetcar can handle the 90 degree left turn onto Division followed by a one block climb, possibly from a full stop (if somebody economizes on signaling) up to Tacoma Avenue.

    Who would I talk to about that?

    Mark Dublin

    1. That “90 degree left turn onto Division” is actually a soft curve left onto N 1st St. It is not that steep of a hill in that location. You would be correct in pointing out that the routing you describe would be a huge mistake, but that isn’t the proposed routing.

      1. This is what happens to a trolleybus driver whose only experience with hills that LOOK that steep has a groove in the street, and a constantly moving cable underneath.

        Wishful thinking. Was hoping we could fit Tacoma LINK with a cable-grip, or both. But it’s good to be wrong about this. And also:

        Any streetcar or LINK driver reading this, will this work draw a lot of talent. Or will I have a chance to walk in off the street and get hired. Or just encouraged to look around Hilltop and see if I can find one whose driver escaped.

        I mean, maybe they got a better offer in Switzerland? However, based on personal experience, rubber-tired transit in Tacoma seems to be universally rough and slow. So good chance large number of Hilltop residents would rather get a ride on something that’s at least smooth.

        Mark

  3. What is the amount that ST requires for contingencies? What was the budget before contingencies? It’s clear that ST does not put in sufficient enough contingencies in early project design.

    On the heels of the Lynnwood cost increases, it’s clear that ST is doing a poor systemic job at setting aside decent enough contingencies. What really sticks out here is that they said that they omitted many costs needed to implement the project and not spiraling unit costs like Lynnwood.

    Will ST admit that they are doing a poor job, or will they keep blaming it on other things like they didn’t identify the extra costs at the outset (implying that local government requirements are more to blame)? ST staff needs to accept some internal blame for its recent costing incompetence and make changes to the internal costing methods. Further, the ST Board should be demanding an updated cost reevaluation of every major upcoming project.

    1. I believe ST uses contingencies of 5-10% on most major elements. They also use unallocated contingencies. For example, when the I-90 engineering overrun of some $225 million on the East Link project surfaced earlier this year, ST claimed they weren’t actually over budget on the project as they moved the funds from their unallocated contingency.

      With that said and in light of the August board meeting’s news about Lynnwood Link’s escalating costs, it’s clear that ST is terrible at estimating and projecting costs. Will they admit this or fully own up to their errors? Well, for an agency that still insists on touting the false narrative that U-Link was delivered on time and under budget, I think from that you can discern the answer to your question.

      Fwiw, here are the numbers given for the Tacoma Link Expansion, err, excuse me, Extension project in the adopted 2017 TIP. Unfortunately, the annual TIP uses constant prior year $ and not YOE $. Even so, the numbers are still very relevant.

      2008 ST2 plan original estimate (in 000’s 2016 $)
      $106,678
      2017 TIP
      $144,436

      I don’t believe this includes the additional fleet (6 cars?) or upgrade to the existing storage and maintenance facilty. Thus, these numbers only reflect the base part of the extension project.

      1. Or, it’s clear ST didn’t plan on Amazon. If we weren’t in the middle of a building boom with a very tight construction labor pool, I’m guessing costs would be much closer to original estimates.

        East Link was a good example of contingency funds. Lynwood is simply the result of building infrastructure while the economy is hot.

    2. Here are some contingency guidelines prepared by Houston (Harris County) for their light rail program: http://ridemetro.granicus.com/MetaViewer.php?view_id=5&clip_id=569&meta_id=4267
      As shown on Page 2 of the presentation, the TOTAL project contingency should be at 25% to 35% before preliminary engineering, and 15% to 25% before final design.

      According to the FTA, FFGA general guidance is to begin with 30% at the start of initial design (such as what ST did for ST3) and 25% going into engineering, as shown on Page 11 of this document: https://www.transit.dot.gov/sites/fta.dot.gov/files/docs/OP40c%20Risk%20and%20Contingency%20Review%20%28Full%29%20-%20Sept%202015_0.pdf

      In other words, ST is repeatedly ignoring basic industry practice and FTA recommendations — first with Lynnwood and now with Tacoma. All of the remaining project budgets need to be immediately assessed and adjusted as needed!

    3. This is almost 100.0% digging up asphalt, laying a better foundation, putting in trackwork and hanging overhead. There’s no property to purchase, buildings to demolish, infrastructure to install, except the overhead. And it’s in Tacoma, not Seattle or Snohomish County.

      I expect it will come in quite close to the budgeted amount.

  4. The issue is typically soft costs not hard costs. A cost estimate for a major transit capital investment usually includes 30-35% for professional services and an unallocated contingency of 10%. Then add in the contingencies on individual unit costs as well as year of expenditure inflation and soft costs will be over half the cost estimate.

    Another issue is the cost estimate is developed using a different methodology than a contractor uses. For example, a transit agency might use the FTA Standard Cost Categories worksheet. This is a great resource but certainly a different methodology than what a contractor uses. Apples and oranges.

    https://www.transit.dot.gov/funding/grant-programs/capital-investments/standard-cost-categories-capital-projects

    At the end of the day, the best way to meet a cost estimate is to manage your soft costs. This can be difficult for a large agency like ST with lots of project administration and overhead.

  5. It is great to spend that much capital on a loopy design. Why so little service frequency? Frequency provides transit mobility more than monuments.

    1. My guess is that Tacoma believes in the “streetcars will revitalize our city” idea. The idea is hotly debated, and is actually a reasonable argument for Tacoma. Spending this kind of money on this type of project is obviously a huge waste of money from a transit perspective, and is especially hard for Tacoma because they struggle passing transit levies. But if their goal is to revitalize their city, it makes more sense than the Seattle Streetcar (which is in a city that is as vital as any in the world). I think it is telling that charging for fares got delayed by subsidies from the Tacoma Business Improvement Area. It isn’t really about transit, it is about making the businesses more attractive. I’m not saying I believe that is a good approach, but it at least is reasonable.

      1. Streetcars need to walk and chew gum at the same time. There is no real reason why they cant be legitimate transit for real transit needs AND economic development, unfortunately there are few examples of them doing both recently.

      2. >> There is no real reason why they cant be legitimate transit for real transit needs AND economic development, unfortunately there are few examples of them doing both recently

        Yeah, and part of the reason is that they are somewhat of a niche product. They make sense when you already have tracks (like in L. A. and Vancouver). They make sense if you you have really high demand, and need a big train. But when that happens, people stop calling them streetcars, and start calling them light rail. It then becomes a judgement call, really. Even though you could call Portland’s MAX and Calgary’s CTrain streetcars, I wouldn’t. I would call them light rail, even though they run through downtown on the surface. I guess it is the fact that the route is long, and they have limited stops (in part because the route is long). This makes them different than a typical streetcar, that has lots of stops, but is a relatively short ride.

        The only thing recent project I would call both good and a streetcar is the one in Paris. It fits the (admittedly vague) definition of a streetcar in that it stays within the central core, and has lots of stops. It is a good value because the trains are big, and the demand is big enough to justify those big trains. There are very places in North America where you need this much capacity. Tacoma isn’t one of those places.

      3. “There is no real reason why they cant be legitimate transit for real transit needs AND economic development, unfortunately there are few examples of them doing both recently”

        It depends on HOW they are built. They need exclusive lanes or MLK-style separation, like you see in the old pictures of wide streets with exclusive streetcar lanes in the middle. It also depends WHERE they are built: are they in the highest-volume corridors in the city? It would make much more sense for a Broadway streetcar to go straight down to Rainier Valley than to turn on Jackson Street, where it can’t replace the 7, 14, 36, or 60, all of which have much higher ridership than the FHS.

    2. Sounder has a last-mile problem to downtown Tacoma, and Central Link will too. If Tacoma Link weren’t there, you’d have shuttle buses? Segments of regular bus routes? Would there be enough capacity for a lot of people going to UW Tacoma and downtown, and even more to the hospitals? Would they appreciate transferring from Sounder or Link to a lowly bus? Is that any way to attract jobs and workers to Tacoma?

      1. I felt the existing Tacoma Link route should have been remodeled for Central Link trains and have Central Link terminate at Theater District/Old City Hall. Its crazy to me to have Central Link bypass Downtown Tacoma to only be served by a dinky shuttle while the mainline LRT trains continue onto a suburban mall.

      2. The existing Tacoma Links fulfills the last mile problem, and I don’t think anyone is advocating for that to go away. I actually like Tacoma link being free if it’s viewed primarily as a downtown shuttle within downtown & to/from the transit hub by Tacoma Dome. The “dinky” shuttle isn’t a problem if it’s frequent & reliable.

        This extension of Tacoma Link is separate from the Last Mile problem between downtown

      3. If Tacoma Link weren’t there, you’d have shuttle buses? Segments of regular bus routes?

        Segments of regular bus routes. There are a handful of buses that serve downtown Tacoma and the Tacoma Dome and they could add more. From what I can tell, almost all of them skirt the east end of Tacoma, just like the existing streetcar. What is needed is more of a grid. For example, the 2 could just head south when it gets to UW Tacoma, and quickly head over to the Tacoma Dome. Of course Pierce County can only afford so much service, and the trip from the Tacoma Dome is just not a priority.

        Would there be enough capacity for a lot of people going to UW Tacoma and downtown, and even more to the hospitals?

        It’s a moot point as long as they use the current trains. These are tiny trains, and have the same capacity as a big bus.

        As a hypothetical, I doubt you will ever need the extra capacity. Right now the trains peak out at about 40 riders a day. A forty foot bus can handle that, let alone an articulated one. This is as a free service, running at most every 12 minutes. Increased frequency would lead to increased ridership, but if you went to running buses every five minutes, you would have some very empty buses.

        The extra stops will add ridership, but the current design is obviously not going to get people to ride end to end. So as a means to support Sounder (or Central Link) it has it’s limits. My guess is you wouldn’t need it anyway.

        As far as Sounder goes, not that many people ride it from Tacoma. Less than a thousand a day. Puyallup, Sumner, Auburn and Kent all have higher ridership. Buses that connect Tacoma to future Link stations (Federal Way, SeaTac, UW) carry less than 500 a day. Most of the Tacoma users of Link ride the 590 to Seattle (over 1,500 from Tacoma). Since Central Link is slower than a bus, it is hard to see people switching, or gaining many new riders. The only way that you would get a lot more riders from Tacoma is if you made the trip faster, and the most likely way that would happen is if they change the HOV lanes from 2 to 3. Only a handful would then get off the bus to transfer to Sounder or Central Link — most would just stay until they get to Seattle.

        Would they appreciate transferring from Sounder or Link to a lowly bus? Is that any way to attract jobs and workers to Tacoma?

        Like I said, very few people make that transfer, and very few will in the future. As far as attracting jobs and workers to Tacoma, I doubt very much that an interesting, but slow two seat ride is going to create a bunch of new jobs. Maybe a one seat express from downtown to downtown would, but that would involve a bus.

  6. SDOT plans to replace the South Lake Union fleet with battery-equipped streetcars when the Center City Connector opens in 2020.

    At that point, the city plan to sell the three cars off. They’ll be about 13 years old at that point, so they still have plenty of life left on them.

    Portland Streetcar has expressed interest in buying those used cars for about $5 million total.
    (http://www.oregonlive.com/commuting/index.ssf/2015/11/portland_wants_to_buy_3_used_s.html)

    That makes me wonder, has Sound Transit looked into buying them? By my calculations, that could cut the cost of the project by about $16 million.

      1. Both systems use 750 V DC overhead catenary wire.

        A fresh paint job would only cost a few thousand dollars… and you would probably need to spend a few thousand more for a deep cleaning of the interior and new seat covers.

        Still a lot cheaper than buying new.

    1. Question: for the amount of money being put into Seattle’s streetcars, why not spend a little extra to have a uniform fleet with enough cars to serve the entire FH – 1st – SLU corridor as a single line with 5 minute peak frequency? And make the necessary transit prioritization changes to make it fast and reliable. Because as the deficiencies of the current streetcar “system” and the limited use of limited systems in other cities shows, if you’re not going big, you’re probably going home. So operate it as a congestion-free downtown area people mover connecting to Link. Imagine: together with ORCA on the monorail and Madison Rapid Ride, you’ve cobbled together a decent downtown area frequent congestion free network (well, except that the monorail currently has physical limits to its frequency…grrrr). Similarly with Tacoma Link: they should buy enough cars to run 5 minute frequency. Gotta wonder how the associated cost “overruns” would compare with the current underestimates. Or any random highway project. And make Rapid-Ride like bus improvements to cobble together a downtown area frequent, congestion free network. The network built up around the streetcar is arguably more important for Tacoma’s mobility and economic growth than the streetcar itself, which let’s face it, is quite limited in scope.

  7. How realistic were projections for the I-90 floating bridge, or I-90, at this stage of the work? Factoring in, as an accurate balance sheet demand, the figures on the financial benefit to the service area. Much of which didn’t even exist in Lacey Murrow’s day, and would never have materialized at all had the bridge, and the highway, not been built.

    At this writing, Seattle has nothing like a streetcar system at all. Just two lines that nowhere near connect. Yet. Suppose that I-5 between Seattle and Lynnwood was the only paved highway in the State. We plan the best we can, and build likewise. Reason for mention of ongoing Value Engineering.

    Especially valuable for designing things that can be easily shifted mid-stride to handle changed conditions. But also, things completely useless for their original purpose turn out to be perfect for something else. Total success and failure for things the size of transit systems usually judged in long retrospect.

    So if you don’t like streetcars…just be patient. Last time I think they only lasted about fifty years.

    Mark

  8. “Greathouse emphasized the cost estimate was still within the range identified in ST2 when escalated to year-of-expenditure dollars.”

    Huh? Does the FTA accept this new narrative? Or is this yet another case of ST moving the goalposts?

    From FTA’s Small Starts rating assignment just last November:

    “Significant Changes Since Last Evaluation (November 2015): The capital cost increased from $166.00 million to $175.63 million because of higher unit costs of vehicles and the need for a larger operations and maintenance facility than Sound Transit previously planned. Sound Transit’s anticipated Small Starts funding amount did not change, but the Small Starts share decreased from 45 to 42 percent. Additionally, Sound Transit now expects to receive an SSGA in late 2017 rather than late 2016.”

    https://www.transit.dot.gov/funding/grant-programs/capital-investments/tacoma-link-expansion-project-profile-fy-2018

    1. I am pretty sure that Small Starts grants are capped at $75M. To go for more money, the project would have to be in the more competitive New Starts process, which has lots more strings attached.

      1. From the FTA CIP site summary, Small Starts must fit into this general description:
        •Total project cost is less than $300 million and total Small Starts funding sought is less than $100 million
        •New fixed guideway systems (light rail, commuter rail etc.)
        •Extension to existing system
        •Fixed guideway BRT system
        •Corridor-based BRT system

        So the cap is actually $100 million. The November 2016 grant review that I cited in the previous post made note of the fact that the sponsor (ST) wasn’t seeking additional grant funding for this project. The FTA was simply stating that the cost increase consequently changed their funding percentage. Obviously that percentage is even lower now with the jump in project cost estimation to $217 million.

  9. I dont understand why streetcars cant be BOTH quality usable transit (designed to solve a dire transit need) and an economic development tool. Why do they have to be designed all sh**ty when they are all about development as if they are a pointless model train going around the ceiling of a diner for ambiance? Even most of the routes for streetcars are these complex routes that crisscross on themselves like a pretzel, are weird one way loops or go way out of the way and then double back (14th Ave on First Hill streetcar, 7th Ave on PDX Eastside streetcar and this Tacoma Link going way up to Hilltop)

    They should really be Small Scale Light Rail… use these smaller lightweight streetcar vehicles with the lighter low-impact track (no building-face-to-building-face complete street rebuild) but give them dedicated lanes (plus raised from general traffic) and an ability to link the cars together… you know just like the trams in Europe. Signal pre-emption, off the shelf transit shelters.

    1. Your second paragraph basically describes what a lot of people call “light rail”. Portland’s MAX is a good example. Calgary CTrain is another example, and I believe L. A. has one, or is building one. I’m sure there are plenty more. They all have the same thing in common:

      1) The trains have a lot more capacity than even the biggest bus.

      2) They cover high demand areas.

      Sometimes it is very difficult to do the latter. For example, it is very difficult to serve First Hill with a surface rail line. The hill is a problem. Once you start digging hills, you start thinking about spending extra money, and digging some more. Next thing you know, there is very little that is running on the surface.

      If you don’t make your streetcars significantly bigger than your buses, then you aren’t trying to solve a transit need (unless, of course, you are simply leveraging an old rail line). When you have given up on the transit aspect of your streetcar, then it become all about cosmetics.

      1. Ages ago somehow figured out how to run a streetcar up Powell St. in San Francisco. We’re building the world’s first light rail across a pontoon bridge and are known nationally for having local tech/engineering talent–so I suspect any technical issues can be ironed out.

        Ride quality, prepaid, cashless, all door boarding, those true BRT “light rail on wheels” features we can’t seem to get despite all the talk of BRT in Seattle. Or most anywhere in the US, for that matter.

        And I’d argue FH is physically pretty well served by the streetcar (and many potential riders coming with Yesler Terrace and perhaps up-zones) and the main issue is cars still have too much priority, which affects the speed and reliability and indirectly the frequency.

      2. True, steep areas are difficult to serve sometimes.

        Sometimes, improvised solutions are implemented. Witness Portland cable car route for accessing the West Hills:
        http://media.oregonlive.com/portland_impact/photo/trestlejpg-353cf97dee97a945.jpg

        In 1905 the cable car was replaced by electric streetcars on a less steep but still impressive route. It climbed about 1,500 feet in several miles.

        Sure, steel wheels have limits, but they can, have been and are used on grades steeper than preferred by today’s route planners.

      3. Powell Street is a cable car — pulled up the hill by locking onto a chain running in a slot in the street. There is no continuous uphill power source like a trolley bus or streetcar.

        I actually wonder if a cable-pulled option could have worked in Tacoma. The ride from St Joseph Hospital to Tacoma Dome will take forever. With a cable-pulled shuttle to St Joseph in place, the streetcar extension could have stopped at Tacoma General and a future extension could have taken another path to eventually reach TCC.

        Of course, this project was decided before ST3; with Central Link now going to Tacoma Dome, the best investment now would probably be building Central Link one Station further east to connect with Pacific Avenue and be much closer to UW Tacoma.

  10. I just watched the September board meeting segment at which the resolution (R2017-31) authorizing the baseline budget and schedule for the Tacoma Link extension project was addressed. After the project’s director gave her short presentation, the board asked zero questions and there was absolutely no discussion. You couldn’t ask for a more disinterested group of board members.

    Forget all the previous numbers ST has given for this project’s cost, including those just reviewed last November by the FTA. Here are the new numbers (in 000’s of YOE$):

    Administration $16,948
    Preliminary Eng $5,559
    Final Design $10,830
    Construction Svcs $9,891
    Third Parties $1,466
    Construction $127,155
    Vehicles $35,377
    ROW $3,555
    Contingency $6,565
    Total $217,346

    The funding is structured as follows:

    FTA Small Starts Grant $74,999,999
    Tacoma $47,744,444
    Sound Transit $94,601,557

    Sound Transit is also claiming that the 2008 ST2 Plan estimate would be $225.2 million in YOE$, though that’s difficult to ascertain since the project was so undefined at that time. With that said, ST stated the original 2008 project cost estimate in the 2017 TIP as follows:

    2008 ST2 plan original estimate (in 000’s 2016$)
    $106,678
    2017 TIP (in 000’s 2016$)
    $144,436

    Like the Lynnwood Link project, more “value engineering” will be needed.

  11. Wow what a waste! Buses are much more versatile, drive faster and are less expensive! And why is Sound Transit money being used to build wheelchair ramps? Sound Transit Money should be to build stations and trains and that’s it. This is just another example of Sound Transit not caring if they go overbudget – because they can – as much as they want – and there is no limit .

  12. FWIW the ADA curbs shouldn’t be assigned to the project, since Tacoma would have had to make the sidewalks ADA-compliant eventually anyway. The city of Tacoma should be paying for that.

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