Relaying new track for Nottingham’s LRT, on a disused railway formation.
What does light rail cost to build?
What has been left out of the ‘Rail for the Valley’ debate is real cost of light rail construction. True, a $35 million/km. figure has been bandied about, but this seems much too high and is based on recent American LRT projects, many of which have been designed to a mainline railway standard, with much gold plating. Two earlier postings showed that modern LRT is being built much cheaper, less than $8 million/km. in Europe.
But are all American LRT projects so expensive?
No, and the following table of light rail construction costs from the Greater Victoria Electric Railway Society (1995) gives good insight of the capital costs of newer American LRT lines.
Comparative capital costs for new-start lower cost LRT systems updated to 1995 Canadian dollars
CITY INITIAL KM. OF 1995 COST
SERVICE LINE ($MIL)/km.
Baltimore 1992 36.2 15.4
Denver 1994 22.5 15.4
Portland 1985 24.5 16.2
Sacramento 1987 29.5 10.5
San Diego 1981 67.4 13.8
St. Louis 1993 28.9 17
Notes: Inflation at 4% per year compounded. Conversion based on $1 Canadian $0.65 USD; .6 mile = 1 km. Sacramento LRT was 60% single track, hence lower construction costs. Table adapted from Central Puget Sound Regional Transit.
What should be noted is that LRT construction costs have not changed much since this table was prepared, but what has happened in the interim, is that gross and needless over-engineering has driven up construction costs to such an extent, that light-rail’s construction costs rival that of the SkyTrain light metro, as witnessed with the planned LRT Millennium and Evergreen Lines!