Here’s news you don’t hear everyday from mega-tunneling projects: Everything may open months early and millions under budget.
Okay, let’s not pop the champagne just yet, but Sound Transit in Seattle has already started exploring the feasibility of opening its light rail from downtown Seattle to Capitol Hill and the University of Washington project about six months early. And we’re still over two years away from this, so progress is splendid.
The $1.95 billion project that constructs 3.15 miles of twin tunnels under an urban environment in Seattle to expand Sound Transit’s light rail capacity was originally slated for a Sept. 24, 2016, opening. But with the project over 75 percent complete and trending at more than $100 million under the budget, things are “going very well” on the project, the agency says.
Right now Sound Transit is looking at the feasibility and cost of opening at least six months early, which would require coordination from users, utility contractors and plenty more. Plus, there’s still the matter of two new stations that need finishing, but even those are well on track for an early completion.
Sound Transit originally worked in six months of “float” time in the contract, but the tunneling by JayDee Contractors is complete and was done without any substantial delays, allowing crews to already get going on final concrete work in the stations and laying track in the tunnels.
Any final word on an early opening could come by the start of 2014, but even the fact that we’re talking about opening up this early is noteworthy on its own.
Tim Newcomb is Engineering News-Record’s Pacific Northwest contributor. He also writes for TIME, Popular Mechanics, Sports Illustrated and more. You can follow him on Twitter at @tdnewcomb or visit his website here.