Federal Way light rail extension costs jump by $460 million

Sound Transit says rising construction market prices pushes project to $2.5 billion

Sound Transit’s costs to extend light rail 7.8 miles from SeaTac to Federal Way are going up by about $460 million because of rising construction market prices.

The price of labor and materials are going up, according to Sound Transit. The agency estimated the cost at about $2.08 billion four years ago but now expects the price to be about $2.54 billion.

Staff presented the cost increase to the Sound Transit board at its July 26 meeting in Seattle.

“Public and private entities across the region are facing significant cost escalation as they compete for scarce contractor capacity and pay increased labor and material costs,” according to a Sound Transit statement.

There’s been an 18.3 increase in lumber and plywood from May 2017 to May 2018, a 7.5 percent hike in costs for ready-made concrete and a 52 percent jump in diesel fuel, according to the Association of General Contractors report quoted by Sound Transit.

Other increases include rising property prices the agency pays for right of way and relocation costs of property owners.

In an effort to reduce costs, Sound Transit plans to hire just one contractor to design and build the project rather than the typical separate contracts. Staff also is working with the Lynnwood Link team to find ways to reduce costs because the Lynnwood extension has faced similar cost increases.

Sound Transit plans to start construction in fall 2019 on the extension to Federal Way and finish the project in 2024. The extension will go from SeaTac’s Angle Lake Station to the Federal Way Transit Center. New stations are planned for near South 236th Street and Pacific Highway South in Kent; South 272nd Street near Interstate 5 in Kent; and near South 320th Street at the Federal Way Transit Center.

The agency plans to build 500 parking spots in a garage at Kent/Des Moines; 1,100 spots in a 272nd Street garage; and add 400 spaces in a new garage to its existing 1,200 spots at the Federal Way Transit Center.

The route will go from the Angle Lake Station to I-5 and along the west side of the freeway until heading west toward Pacific Highway South in Kent, then back along I-5 to get to Federal Way. About 60 percent of the line will be at-grade and about 40 percent on an elevated guideway.

Voters approved a $54 billion ST3 measure in 2016 to pay for the Federal Way project and numerous other projects throughout the region for light rail, trains and buses. The measure included a new property tax as well as increased sales taxes and vehicle tabs.

Despite the $460 million hike for Federal Way Link, Sound Transit still plans to finish the extension by 2024. However, if a federal grant isn’t received to help pay for construction, the agency said it might need to delay the 2024 opening date. Staff expects to find out in 2019 whether it receives any federal funds from the Capital Investment Grant program.

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