How can the next wave of eagerly anticipated transit builds overcome what’s become a tradition: running over budget and behind schedule? That’s the essential question researchers at the University of California in Berkeley (UC Berkeley) set out to answer, by examining case studies from five rail builds in California. Here’s the scoop.
Big Visions: Execution?
State budgets across the country are leveraging federal dollars to drive ambitious commitments to infrastructure. Executing speedy, new and sustainable means of transit are especially critical in the effort to curtail the use of fossil fuels. For these next wave transit projects to succeed, however, they must overcome the massive delays and cost overruns that have previously plagued many of the rail and tunnel projects across the country. After studying the California High Speed Rail, the San Francisco Central Subway, Los Angeles Purple Line, San Diego Mid-Coast Corridor Trolley and the BART Berryessa extension, UC Berkeley researchers developed recommendations toward speeding up future projects. As Construction Dive reports, the suggested strategies to improve both timing and budgeting include:
- Fund local transportation agencies so they can staff up and plan ahead more.
- For project leaders: build more time and cost contingency into estimates to account for potential design challenges and other issues. Also factor site-specific challenges into route design prior to setting time and cost estimates.
- Maintain project scope, and avoid adding significant, non-essential elements after the design stage.
- Break up the work into smaller contracts to increase flexibility, instead of one sprawling agreement. The Los Angeles Purple Line project was built on-time and on-budget with this method.
- Use a construction-manager-at-risk procurement method so builders can provide input on the design, like the successful Mid-Coast Corridor Trolley project used in San Diego.
- Consider advance utility relocation contracts to expedite utility-related work in tunneled areas and around stations.
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Innovative Builds Underway
Eagerness for action is in the air—and indeed, builders across the country are already busy constructing the future. For example, the new Howard Frankland Bridge between Tampa and St. Petersburg, slated for completion by the end of 2025, is being designed to support new transit options, including light rail and high speed buses. There’s potentially even a dedicated lane for autonomous vehicles—and bikers and pedestrians are not forgotten.
San Antonio, is poised to begin work on a high speed loop that will connect San Antonio International Airport to its burgeoning downtown. As details are fine tuned, project estimates are approximated at $247-289 million. Ever wished you could zip straight from the dessert to the ocean? It could happen: After years on the planning table, a high speed train line connecting Las Vegas and Los Angeles might see daylight—and soon. Builders say the $8 billion dollar construction could even start in 2023. Not to be outdone, the East Coast is hoping to speed up travel on the Interstate 95 corridor with a superconducting magnetic levitation train that could move passengers along at speeds of 311 miles per hour.
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