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Sound Transit expects higher light-rail project costs

The largest single driver of light-rail project costs is the need to acquire right-of-way while real estate prices continue to rise, Sound Transit officials said.
Photo – Sound Transit Facebook


Sound Transit officials yesterday announced that estimated construction costs for some light-rail projects have increased between $4.8 billion and $6.2 billion cumulatively due to current real estate and construction market conditions. 

The next wave of expansions — including light-rail extensions to West Seattle, Ballard and Tacoma Dome, as well as a new operations and maintenance facility — all will be affected by higher costs, Sound Transit officials said on the agency's blog.

The estimated cost increase for the extensions to West Seattle and Ballard are more than 50% higher than estimates made in 2019. For the Tacoma Dome, costs are up at least 10%. For the operations and maintenance facility, the latest estimates for the multiple options under review predict an increase of 54% to 77%.

“The largest single cost driver is the need to acquire right-of-way while real estate prices continue to rise unabated, even during the pandemic, and new development occurs near projects,” Sound Transit officials said.

For example, three parcels near the West Seattle Junction on the planned West Seattle extension initially were estimated at $76 million to acquire. Now, the estimated cost of the parcels is over $250 million.

This year, Sound Transit’s board plans to adjust plans and schedules for projects not yet under construction in response to the COVID-19 pandemic’s revenue impacts, as well as cost estimate increases. They expect to make final capital program decisions by summer 2021, Sound Transit officials said.


Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

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