Atlanta Streetcar construction pushes forward

Simulation of Atlanta Streetcar on inner-city neighborhood street.

Atlanta, Georgia — Atlanta is another major U.S. city where streetcar mobility is making a comeback.

A recent article in Maria Saporta’s Saporta Report blog provides an update on the progress of the project. Quick summary: It’s several months behind, and about 5% over budget, mainly because of unforeseen problems with underground utilities. But the construction budget gap has been reduced from $10 million to about $5 million, and fingers are being crossed that that service will begin in the spring or early summer of 2014.

While the 2.62-mile streetcar project’s construction budget includes a financial buffer for contingencies — intended to offset exactly these kinds of cost overruns — and its enough to cover the current gap, says Saporta, “the project team does not want to use up all of its contingency budget in case other issues come up.”

Organized as a public-private partnership between the City, MARTA and the private Central Atlanta Progress/Atlanta Downtown Improvement District, the Atlanta Streetcar project is estimated to have a total cost of $92.7 million. Federal aid in the form of a $47.7 million TIGER II grant “gave the project life” says Saporta.

Based on Saporta’s tally, here’s a total budget breakdown for the project (millions):

• Federal TIGER grant — $47.7 million
• City of Atlanta — $15.6 million
• Atlanta Downtown Improvement District — $6 million

That adds up to an “initial net project total” of $69.3 million reports Saporta.

The rest of the budget includes:

• City of Atlanta — $9 million for streetcars (rolling stock)
• Department of Watershed Management — $8 million to move water and sewer utilities
• Livable Centers Initiative grant — $5.1 million for transit and pedestrian enhancements
• Another LCI grant — $1.25 million to convert Luckie Street into a two-way thoroughfare.

Map of Atlanta Streetcar starter line route.

A.J. Robinson, president of Central Atlanta Progress, reports Saporta, emphasized how optimistic he was reharding the impact that the Atlanta Streetcar will have on Atlanta’s downtown. Already a number of new developments are being planned along the route.

“The building of the Atlanta Streetcar is the dawn of a new era for transit — one that can begin to transform the way we get around in our community” enthuses Saporta.

For more on the project, including a discussion of operating options, read the original article

Tucson — Streetcar project continues moving forward

Simulation of Tucson streetcar line. [Graphic: Regional Transportation Authority]

Tucson, Arizona — This medium-size city’s electric streetcar project continues to advance, according to a Jan. 14th report in the Arizona Daily Star.

While there’s still a lot of work to do, what’s left should be a whole lot less disruptive to traffic, businesses and neighborhoods, according to project manager Jesse Gutierrez.

Like all such projects using urban streets, Tucson’s streetcar construction has grappled with relatively ancient underground utilities, such as 100-year-old pipes in bad condition, as well as newer obstacles such as fiber optic cables. Nevertheless, according to Gutierrez and Tucson Transportation Director Daryl Cole, the construction schedule has been accelerated on some streets, including those near the Tucson Convention Center, to get heavy work finished before major events at the center coming in the next few weeks.

The article reports that most of the rail infrastructure is now in place. “There’s rail on the streets on the University of Arizona campus, University Boulevard, Fourth Avenue, parts of Congress Street and Granada Avenue.”

For more, read the article

[Streetcar simulation: Regional Transportation Authority]


Streetcar planned for another Washington, DC suburb

Inekon Trio streetcar for Washington’s new line.

The Washington, DC area already has streetcar plans — a line on H Street in the central city and along Columbia Pike connecting the Virginia suburbs of Arlington and Fairfax — and now there’s another suburban line on the planning table. According to a December 30th report in the Washington Post, “Arlington County is planning a 2.5-mile-long streetcar line along the Route 1 corridor between Crystal City and the Alexandria city limits.”

Serving what currently is “a high-rise, car-centric area” according to the article, the line is intended by planners to “help to create a walkable neighborhood with street-level retail, dense housing and offices.”

It’s all part of a nascent regional network of light-rail projects, which combined with existing Metrorail, VRE commuter rail, buses, car- and bicycle-sharing and pedestrian-friendly paths, would remake the urban landscape into distinctive destinations.

With an investment cost currently estimated at $146 million, the project would apparently be financed from a special commercial real estate tax plus tax increment financing (which would rely on future increases in real estate value to help fund for infrastructure improvements such as rail transit).

For more on this, see the original article.

Simulation of streetcar in street.