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By Anonymous Mike, pseudonymously.

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Monday, July 7, 2008
Paving the Streets with Gold

I know read the article before but it didn't register until Coyote Blog posted on the light rail project for NW Phoenix....

It will add another $9 million to the $297 million project. But by acting quickly to make these changes, there aren't expected to be delays in rail construction. Work is scheduled to start in early 2009 and be completed by 2012.

Opposition to the rail plan arose last fall in the last half mile of the 3.2-mile light rail line that extends from just south of Bethany Home Road to Dunlap Ave.

As Coyote Blog mentions that's almost $100 million a mile, well $95.6 million to be exact. So you can grumble that the cost of the project went up a few million but then you would be missing the bigger picture, that is how much the cost has increased in just a few years.

1) The 20 mile starter segment, the one that will open this December, is slated to cost $1.4 billion or about $70 million a mile. Keep in mind that cost includes one-time start-up costs and special projects that won't be replicated for the NW Phoenix project such as the bridge over the Salt River so the actual per-mile cost is less than $70 million. Anyway you look at it the capital cost of light rail on a per-mile basis is going up... 36% or so in just a few years.

2) I can already hear the counter-arguments to #1 above, comparing apples to oranges, the starter segment is different than the NW Phoenix extension.... blah, blah, blah.

Okay so let's do an apples-to-apples. Last year, Maricopa Association of Governments (MAG) released an updated version of its 2003 Regional Transportation Plan which covers transportation planning for the county over the next 20 years or so. The estimated capital cost in that document for constructing the NW Phoenix extension, "Northwest Link- Phase 1", is $246.6 million. That's about $77 million a mile. However now the cost, before the design changes in the Arizona Republic article I linked to above, is $297 million. That's a 20% increase in just 1 year and the project won't be completed until 2012.

3) The 3.2 mile segment is the first part of a 37 mile expansion of the system that won't be completed until around 2026. If construction costs have gone up 20% in just 1 year for 3.2 miles, what will the cost be in 18 years for 34 miles?