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Rail News: Passenger Rail

Sound Transit board authorizes construction of Central Link initial segment


Little more than a year ago, Sound Transit’s Link Light Rail Project was under fire: Engineering estimates for Central Link were $1.1 billion more than preliminary estimates, the agency’s light-rail and executive directors resigned, and U.S. Department of Transportation Inspector General Ken Mead recommended DOT withhold Sound Transit’s requested $500 million full-funding grant agreement until issues impacting cost, schedule and scope had been resolved.

Agency officials — and interim-turned-Executive Director Joni Earl — spent the majority of 2001 sorting through and stabilizing Sound Transit’s organization and light-rail plans.

That effort finally paid off Nov. 29, when the board by a 14-2 margin authorized the agency to begin construction of Central Link’s initial segment as soon as reasonably practical in 2002.

The approved initial 14-mile segment would extend from just north of Seattle-Tacoma International Airport through urban-residential areas of south Seattle — including Rainier Valley and Beacon Hill — into downtown Seattle. (The board also decided Sept. 27 to direct Sound Transit’s staff members to identify a path to complete the entire 21-mile corridor.)

But the board didn’t give agency officials carte blanche.

Any request to use the light-rail project’s reserve funds would require a two-thirds super-majority vote, signaling its intent to adhere to the project’s budgeted $2.1 billion price tag. And any cost savings encountered would be directed toward completing the entire alignment.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 11/30/2001