Sound Transit awards light-rail extension contract, begins 2013 budget process

Written by Jenifer Nunez, assistant editor
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The cost for the lines that will connect Ballard to West Seattle has more than doubled.
Sound Transit

Seattle's Sound Transit Board approved a contract with PCL Civil Constructors, Inc., to design and build the elevated station and guideway for the light-rail extension from Sea-Tac Airport to South 200th Street.

Construction of the new station and 1.6-mile South 200th Link Extension is scheduled to begin early next year, with service to start in September 2016; four years earlier than envisioned in the voter-approved Sound Transit 2 plan and at the same time, the University Link extension opens.

“After reviewing technical and cost proposals from four previously-qualified proposers, Sound Transit identified PCL as the highest ranking firm with demonstrated expertise in design-build methods,” said Ahmad Fazel, executive director of design, engineering and construction management at Sound Transit. “The important work PCL and Sound Transit will accomplish together will enable the agency to deliver the South 200th Link Extension project on an accelerated schedule.”

PCL submitted a price of $169 million to design and build the elevated station and guideway, which is less than the $170 million to $190 million estimate that Sound Transit developed for the project.

The South 200th Link Extension will run south from Sea-Tac Airport on an elevated guideway along 28th Avenue South to South 200th Street. The elevated station will include passenger platforms with covered waiting areas, a transfer area for local and rapid ride bus connections, dedicated areas for passenger pickup and drop off and vanpool parking. Secured bicycle storage, street improvements to accommodate traffic circulation, bicycle and pedestrian access, landscaping and public art are also elements of the project.

The board also began work on a 2013 budget that moves forward on major light-rail expansions, while positioning the regional transit system to carry more than 28 million riders next year. The budget process will also require a continuing agency-wide focus on managing the impacts of reduced tax revenues.

The proposed 2013 budget outlines four major themes for the coming year:

• Deliver capital projects on time and within budget

• Increase ridership

• Reduce capital and operating costs

• Maintain nimble, efficient business processes

The proposed 2013 budget includes $754.7 million in capital investments for work to extend light rail to the north, east and south. A proposed $211.8 million budget for service delivery includes a 5.3-percent increase primarily focused on covering higher fuel prices and costs of extending Sounder commuter rail service to Lakewood and South Tacoma. The budget does not propose any reductions or delays affecting services or capital projects.

The 2013 budget process will continue the multi-year process to realign system expansions and revenues that the Sound Transit Board launched in 2010 in response to the impacts of the national recession. The region’s economy has not rebounded as quickly in 2012 as earlier predicted, with agency revenues growing only 2.2 percent in the last year. The fact that 2012 revenue growth has been significantly less than the 3.4 percent earlier forecasted, has led the agency to further reduce its long-term revenue forecast.

As a result of the updated revenue forecast, local tax revenues are expected to be $700 million lower through 2023 than forecasted last year. When compared to the original 2008 Sound Transit 2 financial plan, revenues are now estimated to be an additional five percent lower, for a total reduction of 30 percent or $4.7 billion through the 15-year plan.

Staff has already identified $79 million in proposed long-term cost reductions and will work to identify additional efficiencies in the capital program for board review in October. The budget process will include a detailed assessment by the Sound Transit Board Executive Committee of risks in the financial plan at its current revenue and expenditure levels.