When will Metrolinx announce the opening date for Eglinton Crosstown LRT? Also, the price tag is going up for the planned commuter rail line between Miami and Aventura, Fla.; St. Louis, Mo., Metro Transit will test single-car light rail train service next month and has awarded the first construction contract for its Secure Platform Plan; and Société de transport de Montréal (STM) delays the Blue Line métro extension launch.
Metrolinx President and CEO Phil Verster cannot yet provide a “reliable” opening date for the troubled Eglinton Crosstown LRT, according CP24, a Toronto, Canada-based news and media company. A date had been expected by the end of the summer.
“I had every intention to predict an opening date or series or range of possible opening dates for the Eglinton Crosstown with you today,” Verster said during a news conference at Metrolinx headquarters on Sept. 27, CP24 reported. “But I decided against doing so, based on the fact that [builder] CTS [Crosslinx Transit Solutions] is finding and rectifying issues on a week by week basis and that this affects the opening date significantly.”
Verster would not “even commit to the line opening sometime next year,” but noted that Metrolinx has “a really good idea” of the date and will announce it “once the high-risk testing phase is completed,” according to the media outlet.
Metrolinx Vice President Phil Taberner said during the news conference that construction “‘is pretty much complete’ aside from a small section of work at Yonge and Eglinton,” CP24 reported. “‘We’re in an extensive phase of testing and commissioning and through the testing and commissioning, faults and issues will arise,’ Taberner said. ‘The time taken to rectify can be unpredictable which is why we are not prepared to predict the dates at this stage.’”
According to CP24, Eglinton Crosstown LRT was expected to be “substantially complete” a year ago, but CTS—a consortium of Dragados, Aecon, EllisDon and SNC-Lavalin—missed the deadline and no new date was targeted. Construction began in 2011, with a planned 2020 opening. Delays, including the COVID-19 pandemic, resulted in labor and supply chain problems and there has been litigation between Metrolinx and CTS on cost-overruns, reported the media outlet, which added that the 12-mile line is now slated to cost C$12.56 billion.
Metrolinx is expected to provide project updates every two months going forward, CP24 said.
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Miami Today on Sept. 26 reported that the new cost of Miami-to-Aventura commuter rail is approximately $600 million, up from the $345 million price tag estimated in 2021.
The Transportation Planning Organization, “which quarterbacks all county transportation improvements,” now lists the project’s capital cost at $588.7 million and the Miami-Dade County website lists it as $682 million, “exclusive of track and right-of-way access fees,” according to the newspaper. The Transportation Planning Organization “is to vote this week to upgrade the priority of the 14.5-mile rail system that is geared to serve seven stations including MiamiCentral downtown and the new Aventura station,” the news outlet said.
Service planning is under way, Miami Today reported. “A letter from county Transportation and Public Works Director and CEO Eulois Cleckley says the county has been working with the Transportation Planning Organization, the South Florida Regional Transportation Authority and the Florida Department of Transportation on the required planning, which includes ‘working with local communities to ensure station locations are integrated with surrounding land use and development.’”
According to documents for this week’s vote, Miami Today reported, “[c]apital costs include building the five new railway stations and modifying the tracks ‘for a more localized commuter rail service to supplement the existing Brightline [intercity passenger rail] service along the corridor.’” The tracks are owned by Florida East Coast Railway.
Miami-Dade County “has negotiated with Brightline regarding commuter rail for the corridor, but the administration told its transportation department it should not work on agreements with Brightline before the corridor was approved into the Project Development phase of the federal New Starts Program for funding,” according to Miami Today. The Transportation Planning Organization in March 2021 endorsed Brightline “as the preferred mode for a Miami-to-Aventura commuter rail corridor at an estimated $345 million to build the necessary rail infrastructure, stations, park-and-ride facilities, maintenance depots and trains. Once built, operations and maintenance were expected to cost $16 million a year.”
According to the newspaper, Miami-Dade’s share of construction costs will come from a local half-percent sales tax for transportation improvement and expansion, which voters approved in 2002.
“‘In addition, there is a proposed “Access Fee” for commuter rail to operate on the [Florida East Coast Railway] line,’ according to a 2021 memo from Eileen Bouclé, Transportation Planning Organization executive director,” Miami Today reported.
Brightline in October 2019 proposed the commuter rail route, and in a December 2019 investor memo, “said it might brand the service differently and could create a subsidiary operator to run it,” according to the newspaper.
Starting Oct. 2, Metro Transit will launch a pilot program to put single-car trains into daily MetroLink light rail service instead of the two-car trains now typically run. The single-car trains will operate every day throughout the 46-mile system in the city of St. Louis and St. Louis County, Mo., and St. Clair County, Ill.
The advantages are that one MetroLink car is more efficient for security to patrol; wear and tear is reduced by half; and service can be provided more efficiently at current ridership levels, according to Metro Transit.
“The pandemic has changed our region in a number of ways, including how people travel and how they use transit,” Metro Transit Chief Operating Officer Charles Stewart said. “We’ll be testing single-car service this fall to see if more flexibility on MetroLink makes better use of our workforce resources and provides opportunities to try out new innovative options that may better serve the changing travel patterns of our MetroLink riders.”
Also, St. Charles, Mo.-based Millstone Weber LLC has landed a contract for the first construction package of Metro Transit’s $52 million project to install security gates and fencing at MetroLink platforms. The $6.4 million contract, put out for bid in August, covers four MetroLink stations in St. Clair County: Jackie Joyner-Kersee Center Station, College Station, Emerson Park Station, and Washington Park Station. Work is expected to be completed next spring.
According to Metro Transit, the Secure Platform Plan is a multi-tiered strategy to grow ridership and provide a more secure environment “by creating centralized and highly secure entrances at MetroLink stations.” Access to MetroLink platforms will be controlled through integrated fare collection gates. Installation of gates and fencing will be conducted in a phases over the next two years at all 38 MetroLink stations, as well as at the new MetroLink station coming to MidAmerica St. Louis Airport.
“The awarding of this first contract is a significant milestone in our effort to transition from an open-access light rail system into a closed-access system, and to reassure riders and the region that their safety and security on the MetroLink system remains our top priority,” Bi-State Development President and CEO Taulby Roach said. “We greatly appreciate and value the private-sector support that is enabling us to advance this important and complex regional project.”
According to Metro Transit, the project has been divided into six construction packages, each comprising four to eight MetroLink stations. The second construction package focuses on the Forest Park-DeBaliviere, Central West End, Cortex, Grand, Union Station, Civic Center and Delmar Loop MetroLink stations. The design phase for those seven stations is scheduled to wrap up later this year, with construction expected to be completed next summer.
Metro Transit said that it collaborated with design consultant HNTB to identify appropriate gating and fencing solutions for the Secure Platform Plan. HNTB’s primary recommendation of a roto-gate, complemented by a swing gate for ADA and emergency access was selected by Metro Transit. Following a comprehensive analysis and scoring criteria, Metro Transit said welded-wire fencing was selected to provide both security and “visual appeal.” Gate and fencing fabrication is under way.
STM’s Blue Line metro extension project won’t be completed until at least 2030—“one more year’s delay for a project first promised in the 1980s,” the Montreal Gazette reported Sept. 26.
STM decided to delay the 3.6-mile, C$6.4 billion project between St-Michel and Anjou “after discussing the complexities of the construction process with potential bidders during the last few months,” according to the newspaper.
“The timetable was extended to be fine-tuned around market realities,” the STM wrote in a statement on its website, the Montreal Gazette said. “As a result, the Blue Line extension will not be put into operation before 2030. The scenario for putting the line extension into operation will be confirmed when the next contracts have been awarded and the final terms of the project have been approved by the (provincial government).”
The project has experienced delays and rising costs since the planning phase started in 2013, according to the newspaper, which said funding was announced in 2018, with construction anticipated to commence in 2020 at a price tag of C$3.9 billion. STM announced in 2022 that the construction would start this year.
STM in late 2022 launched a preliminary call for tenders and received bids; STM pre-qualified some bidders and announced Sept. 26 that it published a final call for tenders, the newspaper said. A contract is slated to be awarded in early 2024.
“The project will require the use of a tunnel-boring machine between Pie-IX Blvd. and Anjou West, while the portion of the tunnel between Pie-IX and St-Michel will be dug out using conventional tunnelling methods,” the Montreal Gazette reported. STM Chairperson Éric Alan Caldwell told reporters on Sept. 26 “that it was important that the project respect the cost, which means extending the length of the contract as a longer time frame will ultimately mean less risk for the eventual contractors to take on.”
“There are decisions being made by the project bureau to make sure we have the best bids for the call for tenders and make sure we have the best price,” the Montreal Gazette quoted Caldwell as saying.