The City of Seattle says changes to its plans to build the 2.3-mile, 10-station Madison Bus Rapid Transit route have passed a key assessment and the project is now in line for tens of millions in federal funding.
The Federal Transit Authority is now moving the planned RapidRide G project forward in its Small Starts Grant program after a previous federal assessment found the Seattle plan lacked adequate contingencies for budget and schedule.
The revised RapidRide G plan could cost as much as $133 million to complete and won’t begin service until 2024 thanks to a now longer 36-month-long construction plan, Seattle Department of Transportation officials said Wednesday.
“I am thrilled that the critical Madison Bus Rapid Transit project is moving past this critical milestone. While Seattle builds the best transit and transportation infrastructure in the country, support from our federal partners has become even more critical,” Mayor Jenny Durkan said in an announcement on the $60 million federal grant process. “As we deal with the effects of COVID-19, it is more important than ever to invest in a transportation system that gets our frontline workers, historically underserved communities and communities of color where they need to go quickly and reliably.”
The revised plan with another $6 million added to the budget to cover possible increased costs and another year added to the schedule passed federal muster thanks to three new elements in the proposal, SDOT says:
- Third-Party Agreements – Having a Sound Transit 3 Regional Transit Agency Funding Agreement in place is one of the final steps required for construction readiness. Sound Transit continues to work through a process with their Board on the full portfolio of projects to align their program with revised revenue projections. The $35.8M in regional investment through the voter-approved ST3 program is critical for the Madison BRT project and SDOT continues to work with Sound Transit to advance this agreement.
- Funding level – The PMOC requested SDOT increase the amount of cost contingency by an additional $6 million for a revised budget of $133.4 million. (This is in addition to the $6.3 million increase to the November 2019 projected budget, at the request of the PMOC.) The change reflects estimated quantities shown on design documents, anticipated market conditions, project risk, and escalation due to the schedule adjustment.
- Schedule adjustment – SDOT completed a detailed analysis of the construction schedule in response to an earlier recommendation from the PMOC and concluded that a longer construction period is needed. The PMOC subsequently recommended additional schedule contingency, and the PMP now shows a 36-month construction process with service starting in September 2024. The additional time adds contingency and aligns with one of the two times a year King County Metro initiates new service.
We’ve asked for more details on where the additional $6 million identified for the project’s budget will come from. UPDATE: A spokesperson said some of the $6 million will come from “cost savings on other large construction projects” with the rest coming out of the Sound Transit agreement mentioned above.
The planned route will provide faster transportation between downtown’s 1st Ave and MLK Jr. Way, passing through First Hill, Capitol Hill, and the Central District. It will connect to “dozens of bus routes, the First Hill Streetcar, and ferry service at the Colman Dock Ferry Terminal,” planners say.
Half of the project’s budget is expected to come from the Federal Transit Authority.
Under the revised schedule, the start of construction on the line will be pushed back from this fall to late 2021. “Construction will be disruptive,” SDOT officials warned earlier this year. “You can expect to see and hear construction activities throughout the corridor during the duration of work.”
CHS reported here on the project’s designs, features, and changes along the route from the Waterfront to Madison Valley including what planners hope are improved crossings for pedestrians and the decision to focus on a new diesel-hybrid bus fleet for the line.
King County Metro will operate service on the line with 60-foot articulated buses running every six minutes during peak times. Card readers at the station allowing riders to enter any of the five doors, 13-inch platforms making it easier for those with strollers or wheelchairs to get on the bus, and designated areas of the stations for cyclists and those in wheelchairs aim to make the loading and unloading process more efficient.
The large SDOT project has seen a series of adjusted schedules over the years. In 2018, the planned start of service was 2021.
Another major transit project in the area, meanwhile, remains on schedule. In 2023, service is scheduled to begin at Judkins Park Station as part of Sound Transit’s East Link light rail line to connect Bellevue, Redmond, and Seattle across the I-90 bridge.
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