With the Second Avenue Subway, East Side Access and several other projects chugging along, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s New York City Transit (NYCT) sits at the top spot in METRO’s 2015 Top Rail Projects survey with $16.5 billion in projects, while this year’s total purse, both reported and researched, totals $91 billion.

Rounding out METRO’s top five are the Toronto Transit Commission with $13.2 billion; Seattle’s Sound Transit with $7.8 billion; Boston’s Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority with $5.6 billion; and the City & County of Honolulu DOT Services’ Rapid Transit Division with $5.2 billion.

Overall, this year’s top 10 make up 71% of this year’s total purse with a whopping $65-plus billion in projects. Ranked by state, the top three with the most in rail projects are New York ($19 billion), California ($9.7 billion) and Washington ($7.9 billion). Canada also continues to build with projects totaling $19.2 billion or about 21% of 2015’s total.

Meanwhile, streetcar construction continues to make an impact in the U.S., with four projects totaling $517 million and making major strides toward either opening or finding sources to generate funding.

Construction progress
In New York, construction on Phase One of NYCT’s Second Avenue subway line is at about 82%, with the team on pace to meet its December 2016 target date, MTA Capital Construction Co. officials recently announced.

The Second Avenue Subway is New York City’s first major expansion of the subway system in over 50 years. Being built in four phases, with completion currently set for 2029, the line will stretch 8.5 miles along the length of Manhattan’s East Side, from 125th Street in Harlem to Hanover Square in Lower Manhattan.

All of the stations will have escalator and elevator access, including access for people with disabilities, and will have climate control features to maximize customer comfort.



In San Francisco, the Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) completed the Central Subway tunnel portal entrance, which was the final element to the overall tunneling contract, in May, on-time and on-budget.

The Central Subway Project is the second phase of SFMTA’s Third Street Light Rail Transit Project and is slated to open in 2019. The U.S. Department of Transportation announced approval of the Full Funding Grant Agreement of $942.2 million to fund nearly half of the project. The remaining budget is balanced by existing state and local grant funds.

In Seattle, construction on Sound Transit’s 3.15-mile University Link extension, which will connect the University of Washington and Capitol Hill to downtown Seattle and the airport, is about 94% complete.

The $1.9 billion project, slated to open in December 2016, is projected to add 71,000 riders to the system by 2030, bringing the systemwide total to 114,000, according to the agency.

System launches
A few projects have launched since last year’s Top Rail Projects survey, with some also set to open in the very near future.

In Texas, Dallas Area Rapid Transit opened its Orange Line extension to Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (DFW) in August, four months ahead of schedule.
With the opening, DFW becomes the third-largest American airport with a direct rail connection to the city center.

Meanwhile as of press time, Houston Metro was getting ready to launch two rail lines — the 3.3-mile Green Line and the 6.6-mile Purple Line.

The addition of the two new lines brings Houston’s light rail system to nearly 23 miles, with the expansion being looked at as essential in providing residents with much-needed transportation options, while also easing growing traffic congestion in the region.

In Tucson, Ariz., the Sun Link streetcar system launched in July 2014 and celebrated its one millionth boarding passenger this May.

The 3.9-mile, 18-stop system connects the University of Arizona campus to the Mercado District, Arizona Health Sciences Center, 4th Avenue, downtown Tucson and the Convention Center. RATP Dev is tasked with operating and maintaining the line with a three-year contract from the City of Tucson Department of Transportation with options for up to eight years.

Streetcars thriving
Continuing the trend, streetcar projects are thriving in the U.S., with two ready to begin service this year and one reaching a major funding milestone.

Sun Link

Sun Link

In May, the City of Seattle began testing of its First Hill Streetcar line, which will connect with Sound Transit’s Link light rail system, Sounder commuter rail and Amtrak intercity rail. The project had fallen behind schedule because of issues with the vehicles, but officials are optimistic the system will begin regular service this year.

Construction on Kansas City’s two-mile KC Downtown Streetcar starter line is on pace to be completed by the fall, with tracking for the system approximately 70% complete, according to officials. Following testing, the streetcar system is set to be open to the public in early 2016.

Finally in Detroit, it was recently announced that Quicken Loans Inc. bought the naming rights for the M-1 Rail streetcar line, which is currently under construction and set to open in late 2016.

As of press time, M-1 officials were getting set to hire a company to aid in naming the line and stations as well as choosing the color of the streetcars and helping with branding and logos for the system.

If you know an agency with plans for the future, but were omitted from this year’s survey, please let us know so that we can include it next year. METRO would also like to send a special thanks to all the agencies for taking the time to fill out our surveys and continuing to participate in this annual feature.   

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