Construction on the new RapidRide bus line along Madison Street will likely begin this fall, with federal funding for nearly half the cost of the project secured.
The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) this week announced that Seattle will receive a nearly $60 million grant for the line, which will carry an estimated 12,000 to 18,000 daily riders between Madison Valley and downtown with fast and frequent service. Service is expected to begin in 2024.
The actual construction timeline will depend on when leaders at the FTA and the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) sign the final agreement, said SDOT spokesperson Ethan Bergerson. That can typically take a few months.
Originally slated to open in 2019 and cost $120 million, the project has been delayed a few times. Seattle couldn’t deliver all the projects voters had been promised through the levy, prompting a “reset” that ended up including the Madison project. Also, the city and King County Metro couldn’t get the electric buses included in the original proposal. Hybrid diesel-electric buses will be used instead.
And a 2019 review from the FTA found that SDOT was unprepared to manage a major FTA-funded construction project, saying not enough staff members were dedicated to the project. A consultant for the FTA determined last year that the department met the technical requirements to receive the award, but still needed to address safety concerns.
The review also recommended increasing the budget of the project to $133.4 million, based on revised cost estimates. The new grant would cover about 45% of funding.
As part of the upgrades, buses would run every six minutes through dense neighborhoods like the Central District, Capitol Hill and First Hill. The RapidRide G line would make stops near hospitals, universities and businesses as well as other connecting bus routes, the First Hill Streetcar and ferry service at the Colman Dock Ferry Terminal.
“These bus rapid transit grants will help connect people more easily to our mass transit network — whether it’s a ferry or our light-rail system,” Sen. Maria Cantwell said in a statement.
Like other RapidRide projects, the route will have dedicated bus-only lanes to bypass most other vehicle traffic and improve speed for transit passengers. Signs installed at most stops will provide real-time information about when buses are arriving.
Sidewalk and curb ramp improvements will also be included with the project, along with new crossing signals and extended sidewalk corners that provide better visibility and safety for people crossing the street to get to and from bus stops.
The contractor, which has not yet been named, will determine where along the line work will begin, Bergerson said.
The FTA also announced that Community Transit in Snohomish County would receive a $37 million grant for its Swift Orange Line bus project. The line would provide connections between Edmonds College in Lynnwood and the McCollum Park Park and Ride in Mill Creek along an 11.3-mile corridor.
It is also scheduled to begin operating in 2024.
The new transit lines “will reduce congestion, create jobs, and build more equitable communities,” Sen. Patty Murray, who helped secure the federal funding, said in a statement.