Keeping Transit Moving by Leveraging Our Strengths
Article

Keeping Transit Moving by Leveraging Our Strengths

At the start of every transit project, the environmental process provides a framework on which decisions are made. Our success supporting transit agencies in the environmental and planning phases of projects often leads to long-term relationships and add-on contracts. Two recent examples include the highly successful Federal Way Link Extension project for Sound Transit in Seattle, and new work being done for the Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District.

Federal Way Link Extension

On March 6, 2017, the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) signed the first of two Record of Decisions (RODs) needed for the project. The second, signed by Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), was received on March 10. With the two RODs signed, the planning and environmental analysis phases came to a successful close.

In 2012, Sound Transit selected HDR as the prime consultant for the alternatives analysis (Phase 1); conceptual design and DEIS (Phase 2); and Preliminary Engineering, FEIS, and ROD (Phase 3). Working under an accelerated design schedule, we used creative, collaborative skills to help Sound Transit deliver the project faster than any previous project.

During the DEIS phase, we quickly defined both the construction and operations project footprints for use in analysis of impacts. After these were identified, we moved quickly into analysis of project impacts, putting the project ahead of a normal schedule. For the DEIS, we developed an innovative spreadsheet to evaluate the more than 400 design combinations — showing both a cost estimate and a graphic to illustrate the various options. The spreadsheet simplified understanding of the 400 potential combinations for Sound Transit and stakeholders, and helped the decision-making process.

One of the project responsibilities was to present the alternatives to mayors, council members, the Sound Transit board, and other high-profile stakeholders in a way that simplified the complex data and analysis. Clarence Wong, a talented graphic designer, worked closely with Sound Transit’s Project Manager to develop simple graphics that illustrated the key benefits and impacts of the alignment alternatives and station options, which gave the stakeholders a clear understanding of the trade-offs between alternatives and allowed for more informed decisions for communities.

The Final EIS was completed by mid-November 2016, so the Sound Transit Board could select the “project to build” in January. Sound Transit was very happy to have received the RODs from both FTA and FHWA in March. Due to our success in supporting Sound Transit’s project and the confidence that was built with Sound Transit in our team, Sound Transit has requested our continued assistance on the project. We are now adding design-build bridging documents, right-of-way acquisition, and federal funding efforts for the project. The follow-on work is proof that our successful planning and engineering efforts can pave the way for long-term success in every aspect of a transit agency’s project.

Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District

In the Central Region, our environmental services have opened doors with a client that is new to HDR — the Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District (NICTD). NICTD’s existing South Shore Line (SSL) provides a vital transportation link that connects Northwest Indiana to Chicago and Cook County, Illinois. NICTD is proposing the West Lake Corridor Project as a southern branch extension of the SSL route to reach high-growth areas in Lake County, Indiana.

The project would expand NICTD’s service coverage, improve mobility and accessibility, and stimulate local job creation and economic development opportunities for Lake County. For two accompanying projects — the NICTD Double Track Core Capacity and NICTD West Lake Corridor New Starts Project: FEIS & Engineering Services — we are preparing all materials needed to obtain a project rating and demonstrate readiness for entry to engineering and eventually secure the Full Funding Grant Agreements.