The two design-build teams planning to vie for a 14-mile monorail project in Seattle have requested and received a two-month extension to submit their bids. Bid submittals have been pushed back 60 days, from June 15 to August 16.

Now, a May 31 fire on the city’s existing one-mile monorail shuttle is raising concerns about fire safety issues on the new line. Some 150 people were evacuated either by fire ladder or by riding the other train back to the terminal.

Team Monorail, a 19-member team led by Bombardier Transit Corp., is still regrouping after two major firms withdrew in April (ENR 4/26 p. 7). The team is negotiating with Burnsville, Md.-based AMEC.

Team Monorail and Cascadia Monorail Co. also requested extensions because the city council is still deliberating on rights-of-way issues and conditions to be included in a transit agreement, says Tom Horkan, director of design and construction for Seattle Monorail Project. The council also has yet to approve the location of the alignment in some areas so as to maintain a 14-ft distance from buildings.

Horkan notes that some 42 business and 12 residential properties remain to be acquired. A draft for the transitway agreement, which deals with use of property, insurance, bonding and other issues will be submitted to the city council soon, Horkan adds. SMP still expects to award a notice to proceed in October or November.


The new monorail, expected to cost about $1.7 billion, is the subject of a recall effort by some citizens and of calls for independent review by media, four former mayors and some engineers. Jon Magnusson, chairman and CEO of Magnusson Klemencic Associates, says the 60-day extension gives him more time to assemble an independent panel that would review the request for proposals before Aug. 16 (ENR 5/31 p. 14).

One of his concerns–that planned use of a single-beam guideway along four miles would create chokepoints–is exacerbated by the fire, apparently caused by an electrical short, that hit the 47-year-old current monorail. "In this situation, it would be helpful to have two tracks" so that one train could pull alongside the damaged one to evacuate riders, he says. "Some of the bridge sections are 120 ft in the air; what if there’s a fire up there?"

Horkan says the new monorail will conform to current safety codes and include a walkway, plus constant diagnostics and monitoring via control center.