The engineering and design challenges for Stage 2 of light rail pale in comparison with the scale and complexity of projects in the United States, according to Transport Minister Chris Steel.
Mr Steel is back from a 10-day study tour that took in light rail construction in western cities of the US, including Seattle where a new $54 billion line, including bus rapid transit to increase frequency on the existing network, is being built.
“I was overwhelmed by the scale of investment that some of the cities are making in light rail and also the complexity of light rail build,” he said.
In Seattle, the East Link line is under construction on the floating bridge across Lake Washington and is due to open in 2023. It will be the first time a floating bridge will take rail and is being called Seattle’s moon shot.
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“It’s an engineering feat in itself,” Mr Steel said. “It made me realise that some of the engineering challenges we’re facing on Stage 2 are small compared to some of the challenges they’re facing in other cities.”
Many corridors were also being built on stilts and through tunnels.
Mr Steel observed stations in Seattle that went from overpasses down on to the median with escalators, offering a possible picture of how the challenge of getting people across Adelaide Avenue to a stop in the median might be solved.
“Existing overpasses could be utilised but whether it’s a lift or stairs or escalators, will need to be considered in the design,” he said.
Mr Steel said that there was a real focus on building communities supported by public transport with appropriate development around the stations.
“All of these cities are dealing with massive homelessness issues and problems with affordable housing and a lot of the transit-oriented development was about how can we use this as an opportunity to have more affordable housing close to public transport as well as building in public realm improvements and connectivity to the stops,” he said.
“That’s going to be a challenge for Stage 2 because there won’t be as many opportunities for transit-oriented development along the route but there certainly would be in Woden.”
Mr Steel said US light rail was being used as a mass commuter service in combination with buses, streetcars, and park and ride systems.
“It’s about seeing the integration of the network as a whole,” he said.