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Thursday, July 08, 2004 - Page updated at 12:11 A.M.
Monorail may run late so it can be ... early
By Mike Lindblom
The agency's advertising materials had promised to open the initial phase, a 1½-mile stretch from KeyArena to Westlake Center, by Dec. 15, 2007, to demonstrate that the effort to build the nation's longest elevated transit line is on track. The rest of the line is scheduled to be completed in 2009.
Trouble is, a two-phase project requires multiple rounds of train testing one for the first segment and another for the entire line at a cost of millions of dollars. It also could complicate the work flow for crews installing the columns and tracks.
Executive Director Joel Horn says board members will discuss soon whether to change their plans so that the line would be finished all at once.
One possible advantage of eliminating the early opening, Horn said, is that it might allow the entire project to be finished several months early.
"Would you rather have an early completion or an early opening? It's a legitimate question to ask," Horn said. "Can [the bidders] complete it six months early? ... I would like to know if that's possible."
Both prospective monorail-construction teams have challenged the two-phase concept in talks with monorail-agency staff members.
Tom Stone of Transmax, who is organizing "Team Monorail" for Canadian train maker Bombardier, said yesterday that opening the whole line at once "will save significant money and will save us significant time as well."
But eliminating the initial start-up could be costly to Seattle Center and downtown's Westlake Center, which rely on the existing monorail to carry 2 million riders a year to their doorsteps. Indeed, this monorail has been temporarily closed since a Memorial Day fire, causing a significant drop in summer tourist business at Westlake.
The current monorail, built in 1962, is scheduled to be demolished in late 2005.
Shortly after voters approved the Green Line, linking Ballard and West Seattle to downtown, the agency handed out refrigerator magnets for residents to use as free-ride tickets on Dec. 15, 2007.
The board would need to change plans quickly if bidders were to meet a deadline of Aug. 15 to make their proposals for an expected $1.3 billion in contracts to design, build and operate the line.
According to polling by the Evergreen Research Group, a small majority would rather open the whole line six months early than have a small portion done by 2007.
Mike Lindblom: 206-515-5631
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