Tuesday, June 08, 2004

Seattle Light Rail Construction Starts

Sound Transit in Seattle broke ground today on their much publicized Light Rail System. This is the new, politically correct, term for a streetcar system. The project is being pushed by King County Executive Ron Sims and Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels, both of whom, surprise surprise, just happen to be on the board of Sound Transit.

Cost of the proposed 14 mile system is up to nearly $4 Billion. This is over 33% more than originally approved, and the project will now take at least 3 years longer than initially expected. Budget for the first 7 miles alone is $2.6 Billion. Part of the reason for the extravagant cost, is that they want to tunnel under downtown Seattle for one third of the line. They don't seem concerned at all that this is earthquake country. A portion of this tunnel will take over the existing bus tunnel, putting an extra 20 buses an hour on downtown streets. Another section of the line will run at suface level, causing even more traffic problems. This is supposed to improve traffic conditions? I must have missed something.

Seattle's Original Streetcar Line

In contrast, the first part of the planned new monorail for Seattle will also be 14 miles long. But the cost will be only $1.8 Billion. The design is also entirely elevated, so the traffic impact will be minimal. Given modern materials, the support columns can be relatively thin, causing even less ground level disruption than the existing monorail line on 5th Avenue. Construction of the first segment is planned to take less than 2 years.

Seems to me, that Light Rail is just about the worst choice that could be made here. Yet the powers in office are set on it, and they have fought three voter referendums forcing the advancement of the monorail project. Why have the politicians pushed Light Rail on us?

Of course, none of the existing plans connect to the east side of Lake Washington, with the ~400,000 people living there. Not sure how they could ever get Light Rail across the lake. But the monorail could easily follow the I-90 right of way.


Post a Comment

<< Home