Archive for May 23rd, 2011

Developing and Implementing a New Rail Line

May 23rd, 2011 8 comments

With increasing fuel prices and a rebounding economy soon to increase transit demand and with the progress of the Metro’s Regional Transit System Plan, it is opportune to reflect on the time and effort necessary to develop and implement a new rail line, be it Metrorail, light rail or streetcar. An important time factor is the Federal procedures and evaluations for Federal funding, upon which most ‘major capital investments’ in rail transit are reliant. The Federal share can range from 30 to 50 percent of the total project cost. The two most recent Metrorail extensions – Blue Line to Largo Town Center and the Dulles Corridor Line to Wiehle Avenue Station – follow or exceed the experience across the nation of 10 to 12 years from start of alternatives analysis (AA) to start of revenue operations. The Maryland Transit Administration conducted the AA of the Blue Line extension in the early 1990s; the 3-mile extension opened in late 2004. The Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation conducted the AA (then, a Major Investment Study, MIS) of the Dulles Corridor extension in the mid-1990’s; the 11-mile extension to the Wiehle Avenue Station will open in late 2013, nearly twenty years later.

For both these heavy rail extensions and for the light rail and streetcar projects now under development, the original project delivery schedules were more compressed. For example, the Dulles Corridor Task Force recommended in 1999 that the Dulles Corridor extension be open through Tysons Corner by 2006. An explanation for the differences in original and actual schedules includes, but is not limited to, extended timeframes for the following:

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