Delays inhibit transportation infrastructure

April 30, 2015

Construction problems, project delays, and soaring price tags are inhibiting transportation infrastructure in the U.S. Consider the latest: Southwest Light Rail Transit, Minnesota’s largest transportation project, now requires a budget of $2 billion. The Silver Line Metro extension in the D.C. area is 13 months behind schedule and $226 million over budget. Transportation infrastructure, as we’ve written about before, is not cheap to build or maintain.

The Silver Line is running, but there's always more work to do. Image by Ryan Stavely.

The Silver Line is running, but there’s always more work to do. Image from Ryan Stavely.

Delays and construction problems plaguing Minnesota’s Southwest line are also raising the costs of the project. As the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports, the line would connect two cities over 16 miles, and, according to an analysis from earlier this week, will require an extra $341 million to address poor ground conditions and soil contamination. The line’s opening was pushed to 2020.

The project has long been controversial. Minnesota governor Mike Dayton told the Star Tribune that the current status of the light rail is raising “serious questions about its viability and affordability.” And there’s a chance the project might still be killed. Adam Duininck, chair of the Metropolitan Council, the regional planning agency, said, “When I say all options are on the table, I really mean that…We need to take a pause to see how to proceed because this project is on uncertain ground right now.”

Delays are also getting in the way of the Silver Line project. Phase 1 of the rail opened last summer, but the next phase have been delayed over a year due to overages and delays in design changes. Phase 1 connected Virginia’s employment hubs with downtown D.C. and Largo, Maryland, and Phase 2 will link Washington Dulles International Airport with other area cities and suburbs.

Design modifications — implemented to comply with new state and federal laws on storm water management — added work to Phase 1. The costly six-month delay may add as much as $76 million to the cost, bringing the total bill to about $2.98 billion. As the Washington Post reports, Silver Line has been in the works for decades, getting nixed then reinstated again and again.

Rep. Gerry Connolly of Virginia, who has been involved in the project’s negotiations, told the Post, “The construction delays on Phase 2 are primarily the result of a brutal winter and necessary safety-related design changes. While we all want to see the Silver Line completed as soon as possible, it’s more important to get it right and make safety our top priority.”

Transportation infrastructure is on the minds of many politicians across the U.S. This week in Illinois, the state’s transportation secretary urged an increase in spending at a series of events. The Illinois Infrastructure Listening Tour was designed by his office to promote further dialogue about transport funding. And earlier this week in Santa Monica, California, a councilwoman pushed for long-term funding for transportation infrastructure and a new freight rail.

Learn more about the history of the Southwest light rail project, and the reasons for the delays. For more on D.C.’s Metro woes, check out further details on the Silver Line extension.

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Category: Infrastructure

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