Eno Selects Final Case Studies for Ongoing Research into Transit Cost Delivery

Eno Selects Final Case Studies for Ongoing Research into Transit Cost Delivery

October 09, 2020  | Romic Aevaz and Paul Lewis

As part of the ongoing effort to evaluate transit project delivery, Eno aims to identify why rail transit projects in the United States are costlier and take longer to build than many peer countries, and whether international projects can offer lessons on how to minimize delays and deliver cost-effective projects.

To answer these questions, Eno will be conducting eight case studies of transit project delivery in the United States, Canada, and Europe. These studies will not only yield facts and details of specific projects, but also uncover the aspects of project delivery that happen behind the scenes.

These case studies will supplement Eno’s comprehensive literature review, and reveal common themes in project delivery across regions to determine which cost and timeline drivers appear to have the most significant impact on project outcomes.

The case studies will also help determine whether projects in the United States are being built to higher technical and safety standards than abroad, and to what extent factors like governance, institutional experience and staff capacity, project management, and contracting practices influence project outcomes domestically and abroad.

By identifying specific drivers as well as best practices in project delivery, the case study process will inform policy recommendations to address the growing costs and timelines of major transit projects in the U.S.

After consideration and feedback from our advisory panel, the research team selected the following cases:

  • Domestic: Denver, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Seattle
  • International: Copenhagen, Paris, Madrid, Toronto

For this research, a case study is defined as a project or several projects conducted by a single agency in a region. To be eligible as a domestic or international case study, a project in a region must have been completed and opened to the public between 2000 and 2020. This timeframe ensures that a project has a clear final cost and is also recent enough in interviewees’ memories that they can recall important details.

For each of these cases, the lead agency in each region has completed at least two projects in the past 20 years. The ability to learn from multiple projects in a single region could be significant and we expect much can be learned by examining differences in project delivery while keeping agency and local governance elements constant.

International case studies are limited to regions in Canada and Europe. While there are certainly interesting projects in other parts of the world, development patterns, economies, and governmental and legal structures are often fundamentally different from the United States. These changing variables across comparisons can limit the transferability of any lessons learned. Future research will examine the decision-making process for major public transit projects in democracies in other parts of the world.

The selected case studies represent a diverse range of geographies to highlight unique lessons from different U.S. states and countries. We made sure no two case studies are from the same state (for example, California), region (Scandinavia), or country (Spain). The final case studies include different types of governance structures, standards, processes, and other factors that are potential key cost drivers.

The final cases highlight comparable transit modes to what is typically constructed in the U.S.  Specifically, American cities build a lot of light rail, so we included international cities that have expanded their tram systems. Paris and Madrid in particularly have invested heavily in their regional tram system, which will provide direct comparisons to US light rail projects.

Domestic cases avoid outliers such as extremely expensive projects (like in New York City) that would not provide comparable lessons for other regions in the US. The Eno team will be conducting a separate study of project delivery in New York City given its complexity.

The target audience for these case studies is U.S. policymakers, practitioners, and agency officials, and it is most likely that best practices will emerge from exemplary international cases. As a result, international case studies should trend toward projects with the lowest costs and fastest timelines.

The final case studies are included below and were selected according to the criteria explained above, review of topic literature, and analysis of data on projects in each region.

Domestic Case Studies

Los Angeles

Note: projects in bold are profiled for the case study, projects in red are still under construction but will be evaluated through case study interviews.

Light Rail Lines

Year Opened Length (km) Percent Tunneled Stations Cost (2019 USD) Cost per km
Blue (A) Line 1990 35.4 3% 22 $877 million $25 million
Green (C) Line 1995 31.4 0% 14 $718 million $23 million
Gold (L) Line 2016 47.8 8% 27 $2.8 billion $59 million
Expo (E) Line 2016 21.1 3% 19 $2.4 billion $114

Million

Source: varies, Transit Project Database, FTA Capital Cost Database, and LA Metro Project Management Dashboard

Heavy Rail Lines

Year Opened Length (km) Percent Tunneled Stations Cost (2019 USD) Cost per km
Red Line (B) Phase 1 1993 5.4 85% 5 $3.1 billion $351 million
Red Line (B) Phase 2 / Purple (D) Line Initial 1996 and 1999 10.7 100% 8 $3 billion $189 million
Red Line (B) Phase 3 2000 10.4 100% 3 $2 Billion $128 million
Purple (D) Line Extension Phase 1 2023 6.31 100% 3 $3.1 Billion $499 million
Purple (D) Line Extension Phase 2 2025 4.17 100% 2 $2.5 billion $599 million
Purple (D) Line Extension Phase 3 2027 4.12 100% 2 $3.6 billion $ 873 million

Source: varies, Eno Transit Project Database, FTA Capital Cost Database, and LA Metro Project Management Dashboard

LA Metro’s Metro Rail system consists of two heavy rail subway lines and four light rail lines, spanning 98 miles of rail and 93 stations. The most recently completed projects are two light rail lines that interface with the existing system. LA Metro is in the midst of significant expansion, and has several major light and heavy rail projects that have either been completed in the past few years or are currently under construction. Although most are not tunneled, many of the lines are elevated and all navigate complex urban landscapes.

From a delivery method standpoint, LA Metro has also developed a formal process to help select an appropriate project delivery method for each project, and was one of the first U.S. agencies to use design-build process for an underground transit project (Purple Line Extension, currently underway). A profile of the Expo Line extension also cited design-build contracting as a key factor in streamlining the project’s design process and setting appropriate project phases. However, reporting during the line’s construction noted that change orders, material cost increases, and new project additions caused schedule delays and cost overruns in the hundreds of millions.

Seattle

Note: projects in bold are profiled for the case study, projects in red are still under construction but will be evaluated through case study interviews.

Light Rail Lines

Year Opened Length Percent Tunneled Stations Cost (2019 USD) Cost per km
1 Line – Initial Segment 2009 25.1 km (15.6 mi) 15% (2.1 km of total tunneled length is pre-existing DSTT) 14 $2.3 billion $89 million
1 Line Angle Lake Extension 2016 2.6 km (1.6 mi) 0% 1 $343 million $133 million
1 Line U-Link Extension 2016 5.1 km (3.2 mi) 100% 2 $1.9 billion $373 million
Northgate Extension 2021 6.92 km 81% 3 $1.8 billion $260 million
Lynwood Extension 2024 13.62km 0% 4 $2.7 billion $198 million
East Link Extension 2023 22.53 km 14% 10 $ 3.6 billion $159 million

Source: varies, Eno Transit Project Database

Sound Transit in the Seattle region operates the Link light rail system. Seattle’s light rail serves as a valuable case study given that it has significant portions of track that are elevated and tunneled, adding comparable complexity to other US and international projects. Also, each phase of the Red Line has been completed under budget. The initial route of the Red Line was completed $117 million below the original $2.44 billion budget while the U-Link extension was completed $200 million under budget as well as six months ahead of schedule. Similarly, the U-Link extension to Angle Lake station was completed $40 million less than the original $383 million budget.  Seattle is also currently in the process of building several extensions to its light rail system, some of which include significant tunneled components.

Denver

Regional and Light Rail Lines

  Year Opened Length (km) Percent Tunneled Stations Cost (2019 USD) Cost per km
A Line 2016 37.8 0% 7 $1.4 billion $37 million
G Line 2019 18 0% 7 $505 million $28 million
B Line (Initial) 2016 10 0% 7 $157 million $16 million
W Line 2013 19.5 0% 12 $735 million $38 million
R Line 2017 16.9 0% 8 $654 million $39 million
Southeast Rail Extension 2019 3.7 0% 3 $209 million $57 million

Source: varies, Eno Transit Project Database

Denver has made significant investments in its regional rail system and light rail system in the past decade. All of the projects are part of the multibillion-dollar 2004 voter-approved FasTracks plan to expand transit across the Denver metropolitan region, which itself experienced cost overruns and delays in part due to the 2008 recession. The regional rail projects (A, B, and G lines) were conducted under the “Denver Eagle P3,” which was the first U.S. rail transit project procured under a public-private partnership. The project, which includes three commuter rail lines in the Denver region, was broken into two phases, with construction of the first phase beginning in 2010 and ending in 2016, and construction of the second phase beginning in 2011 and ending in 2019. None of the system is tunneled, but significant portions are elevated. Part of the project operates on existing heavy rail and highway right of way, and new right of way was acquired and used for the remaining sections.

Minneapolis

Light Rail Lines

Year Opened Length (km) Percent Tunneled Stations Cost (2019 USD) Cost per km
Blue Line 2004 19.3 15% 19 $1.0 billion $52 million
Green Line 2014 18.0 0% 23 $1.1 billion $60 million

Source: varies, Eno Transit Project Database, FOIA requests

Metro Transit, the operating arm of Met Council, opened its Blue Line light rail in 2004 and the Green Line opened in 2014. The Blue Line used two separate design-build contracts, one for vehicles and one for rail, signal, and communications equipment, and one design-bid-build contract for the airport tunnels below MSP International. The Green Line was completed on time. The Green Line is slated for a 23.2 km and 16 station extension estimated to be completed by 2023, and the Blue Line is slated for a 22.4 km, 11 station extension estimated to be completed by 2024.

International Case Studies

Paris

Note: All original costs have been adjusted for inflation and purchasing power parity (PPP) to 2019 USD from their original currency

Metro Lines

 Line Year Opened Length (km) Percent Tunneled Stations Cost (2019 USD) Cost per km
Line 14 Olympiades Extension 2007 0.7 100% 1 $159 million $227 million
Line 13 to Courtilles 2008 1.9 100% 2 $222 million $117 million
Line 8 to Pointe-du-Lac 2011 1.3 0% 1 $116 million $90 million
Line 12 to Front Populaire 2012 1.5 100% 1 $411 million $274 million
Line 4 to Montrouge 2013 1.5 100% 1 $253 million $169 million
Line 4 to Bagneux 2019 1.8 100% 2 $526 million $292 million

Source: varies, Eno Transit Project Database

Tram Lines

  Year Opened Length (km) Percent Tunneled Stations Cost (2019 USD) Cost per km
Tram 1 – Extension to Asnieres Quatre-Routes (Phase 1) 2019 0.9 0% 1 $47 million $52 million
Tram 1 – Extension to Gennevilliers 2012 4.9 0% 1 $209 million $43 million
Tram 1 – Extension to Noisy-le-Sec 2003 2.9 0% 5 $46 million $16 million
Tram 1 Initial Segment 1992 9.0 0% 21 $214 million $24 million
Tram 11 2017 10.6 0% 7 $1405 million $133 million
Tram 2 – Extension to Pont de Bezons 2012 4.2 0% 7 $311 million $74 million
Tram 2 – Extension to Porte de Versailles 2009 2.3 0% 4 $126 million $55 million
Tram 2 – Initial 1997 11.4 11% 13 $159 million $14 million
Tram 3a – initial 2006 7.9 0% 17 $449 million $57 million
Tram 4 – Extension 2019 6.6 0% 11 $349 million $53 million
Tram 4 – Initial 2006 8.0 0% 11 $165 million $21 million
Tram 5 2013 6.6 0% 16 $295 million $45 million
Tram 6 (initial + extension) 2016 14.0 11% 21 $515 million $37 million
Tram 7 2013 11.2 0% 18 $472 million $42 million
Tram 8 2014 8.5 0% 17 $384 million $45 million

Source: varies, Eno Transit Project Database

In Paris, six major Metro projects were completed between 2007 and 2019. All but one of these projects, the Line 8 extension, was fully tunneled. At the same time, Paris has made significant investments in its modern tramway system, with fifteen (15) additional tram lines constructed between 1992 and 2019 adding more than 40 km to a network that it began building in the 1990s. The Metro and tramway projects are all owned and operated by the Régie Autonome des Transports Parisiens (RATP), a state-owned enterprise responsible for carrying out all public transport in the Paris region. RATP is responsible for project management for all of the projects, and has been routinely successful in managing complex projects with low budgets. These projects were built in a dense urban environment, particularly the extensions of lines 4 and 12, and include tunneled, elevated, and at-grade sections.

Madrid

Note: All original costs have been adjusted for inflation and purchasing power parity (PPP) to 2019 USD from their original currency

Metro Lines

  Year Opened Length (km) Percent Tunneled Stations Cost (2019 USD) Cost per km
1995-98 Program 1998 38 100% 34 $3.5 billion $92 million
1999-2003 Program 2003 74.7 77% 39 $6.2 billion $83 million
Chamartin-Atocha Tunnel 2008 7.5 100% 3 $955 million $127 million
Line 2 Extension 2011 4.6 100% 4 $516 million $112 million
Line 9 Extension 2015 3 100% 2 $311 million $104 million

Source: varies, Transit Project Database

Tram Lines

Year Opened Length (km) Percent Tunneled Stations Cost (2019 USD) Cost per km
T1 Tram 2007 5.4 69% 9 $481 million $89 million
T2 Tram 2007 8.7 30% 13 $492 million $57 million
T3 Tram 2007 13.7 10% 14 $497 million $36 million
Parla Tram 2008 8.4 0% 15 $239 million $28 million

Source: varies, Eno Transit Project Database

In Madrid, five major rail tunnel projects were completed between 1998 and 2015. Madrid is also building a modern tram system, with an expected completion in 2020. Both Madrid and Spain at-large have long been viewed as international best practices for major urban rail projects. Research cites several factors accounting for these low costs, including that projects did not use open-face or boring tunneling methods, did not have an external project manager, and had a small group of engineers directing the project. The lone exception is the Atocha-Chamartín tunnel, which was completed using an earth pressure balance boring machine. Madrid has also built several tram lines in the last 20 years, some of which include tunneled components, at relatively low costs compared to U.S. projects.

Copenhagen

Note: All original costs have been adjusted for inflation and purchasing power parity (PPP) to 2019 USD from their original currency

Metro Lines

  Year Opened Length (km) Percent Tunneled Stations Cost (2019 USD) Cost per km
Initial Segment (M1 and M2 lines) 2002 21 48% 23 $1.9 billion $91 million
City Ring Line (M3) 2019 15.5 100% 17 $3.8 billion $244 million

Source: varies, Eno Transit Project Database

Copenhagen completed its first subway system in 2002. The initial 20.4 kilometer system consisted of two lines, the M1 and M2, which share a common 7.7 kilometer section through central Copenhagen and include a mix of both tunneled, elevated, and at-grade segments. The M3 line of the Copenhagen Metro, known as the Cityringen (City Ring), is the city’s newest line. The project was approved by the Danish Parliament in 2007 and construction sites were set up in 2011, with tunneling beginning in 2013. The project was delayed one year and $400M over budget. Despite this, it was tunneled at a cost significantly less than comparable projects in the U.S. A joint venture of Arup, SYSTRA, and COWI was awarded a contract for civil works and design while a separate contract for station construction was awarded to Danish firm MT Højgaard, who transferred the contract to CMT in June 2017.

The Copenhagen Metro was the region’s first major metro project, and was built at a cost-per-kilometer comparable to several U.S. light rail projects despite being tunneled for nearly half of its alignment. As the largest construction project in Danish history and given the project’s considerable geographic length, the Cityringen line also presents a useful case study of megaproject management, engineering, and design. Coverage of the project’s construction delays appear to involve issues with station construction, particularly noise complaints and a series of resulting legal rulings that impacted the ability of contractors to work on construction 24 hours a day.

Other coverage of the Cityringen (and the Copenhagen Metro at large) discuss the programs’ tunneling methods in a positive light, particularly the deployment of thousands of sensors in buildings in the vicinity of the construction site to monitor and prevent any damage, particularly around the city’s many historic churches and landmarks. The Cityringen is a useful example to highlight both positive and negative cost/timeline drivers given the project’s construction delays, relatively high cost-per-kilometer (compared to other European projects), and positive coverage of its engineering methods and architecture.

Toronto

Note: All original costs have been adjusted for inflation and purchasing power parity (PPP) to 2019 USD from their original currency

Metro Lines

  Year Opened Length (km) Percent Tunneled Stations Cost (2019 USD) Cost per km
Sheppard 2002 5.5 100% 5 $1.2 billion $228 million
Toronto-York-Spadina Subway Extension (TYSSE) 2017 8.6 100% 6                        $2.9  billion $337 million

Source: varies, Eno Transit Project Database

Toronto recently completed a major extension of its busiest subway line (TYSSE). A study of subway construction in the region, commissioned by the Residential and Civil Construction Alliance of Ontario (RCCAO) , found significant cost escalation over the past several decades. Due to these escalations, the TYSSE has since struggled with cost overruns and delays. Despite these noted challenges and higher cost compared to some European projects, the TYSSE was 100 percent tunneled and had unit costs below many comparable US projects. The Toronto case can be useful given the similarities between the US and Canada and that the tunnel was completed in a dense, urbanized area. Toronto is also currently expanding its light rail system, and while those projects will not be a focus of the case, comparisons to light rail projects in the US can be drawn. The study of subway construction costs commissioned by the RCCAO cited tunnel depths and stations as potential cost drivers. Tunneling and architectural standards have been cited anecdotally as potential cost drivers in cities like New York, and a more thorough case study of Toronto will shed further light on the extent to which technical specifications and design influence construction costs compared to U.S. and European heavy rail projects.

Highway Comparison Case Study

The research also includes a case study that will examine a highway project to gain insights into whether lessons can be learned from the delivery methods and regulations that govern highway project delivery. The research team reviewed potential case studies for the highway comparison, based on their recent completion, their large scope, and that major transit projects have also been completed recently in the same region.

The Virginia I-495 HOT Lanes, completed in 2012 at a cost of 1.4 billion, or $62.5 million per mile, will be the highway case for this research. Virginia, through a design-build-operate-finance-maintain contractual structure, has expanded I-495 in the Washington suburbs to add four high occupancy toll lanes. The Commonwealth contracted with Transurban and partially funded the highway expansion project at a cost that is average for recent highway projects across the U.S. None of the project is tunneled, but a portion is elevated. The project can be compared to the nearby Silver Line metro extension, which cost $158 million per mile.

Next Steps

The Eno team will be conducting case studies over the next two months by researching each region and its projects and scheduling off-the-record interviews with public agency staff, contractors, unions, and other stakeholders. The interviews will provide additional local context and shed light on specific technical elements, processes, and standards that can affect project outcomes. These discussions can also help identify phases of project delivery where projects are most vulnerable to cost and timeline increases, and best practices for keeping costs and timelines in check. These findings will culminate in specific, actionable recommendations on how U.S. project sponsors can deliver cost-effective projects and minimize delays.

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