2017 was a big year in transportation. Cities paved the way for electric vehicles, embraced alternative means of transit, and even launched autonomous buses. At the same time, we discovered that U.S. kids are dying from traffic fatalities unnecessarily, watched a major highway collapse, and learned more about why some cities are dangerous for pedestrians.
What do we have to look forward to in 2018? The debut of more large transportation projects across the United States. From streetcars to transit hubs, cities are doubling down on trying to solve their transportation woes with new or expanded systems. To see just how widespread the upgrades will be, we’ve rounded up the most important projects scheduled to go live this year.
It’s worth noting that a few of these projects actually made a similar list we published last year. As any city manager will tell you, construction delays can wreak havoc on project timelines, but hopefully this will be the year that long-awaited projects like Denver’s G Line and Charlotte’s Blue Line finally open.
This list also deliberately leaves off the wide array of projects currently under construction but not slated to finish in 2018. The extensive light rail expansions in Seattle and Los Angeles, Boston’s Green Line project, and Washington, D.C.’s Purple Line will all be included in future editions once openings are scheduled.
New streetcars in El Paso, Texas; Milwaukee; Oklahoma City; and St. Louis
It’s a big year ahead for streetcars in the U.S., with no fewer than four cities planning to open new lines. In El Paso, testing is underway on a 4.8-mile, 27-stop system that will return vintage streetcars to the streets for the first time since 1974. Likewise, in Milwaukee, construction is almost finished on 2.3 miles of a phased streetcar expansion. Both systems should welcome riders by the end of the year.
In Oklahoma City, a $130 million, 2.3-mile streetcar will link important districts in downtown. A long-delayed—and financially troubled—new system in St. Louis, called the Loop Trolley, could also open in 2018 if project managers can keep up the momentum.
Almost a decade in the making, LA’s highly anticipated bike- and pedestrian-friendly street improvements, known as MyFigueroa, will finally open in spring 2018. Construction continued this past year to transform a 4-mile stretch of Figueroa Street between Seventh Street in Downtown’s Financial District and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard in Exposition Park, with two offshoots along the way.
According to Curbed LA, the makeover will include a protected bike lane, bike signals, a dedicated lane for express buses, bus platforms, and wider sidewalks designed for sitting and strolling. A similar makeover will add protected bike paths and other safety improvements to Main and Spring streets.
Elsewhere in LA, keep an eye on the Purple Line extension and the Regional Connector still making progress underground, and get ready for the Crenshaw/LAX train line to debut in 2019.
Charlotte, North Carolina: Light rail expansion
Originally slated for an August 2017 opening, Charlotte’s $1.1 billion light rail extension will now open for passengers in March 2018. The Blue Line Extension will nearly double the size of the one-line system, adding 9.3 miles and 11 stations.
The expansion also includes 3,100 parking spaces and four park-and-ride facilities, transforming the commute from downtown to the University of North Carolina Charlotte campus into a pleasant 45-minute ride.
New York: A new bridge over the Hudson
Located north of Manhattan near Tarrytown, New York, the replacement of the old Tappan Zee Bridge with the $4 billion Governor Mario M. Cuomo Bridge is currently one of the largest public infrastructure projects under construction in the United States.
Work on the 3.1-mile bridge began in 2013, and the first new span started carrying eight lanes of two-way traffic in October 2017. The second Westchester-bound span should be finished this summer, as crews continue to slowly dismantle the old Tappan Zee Bridge.
When completed, the bridge will have eight traffic lanes, four breakdown and emergency lanes, and space for express buses, a bicycle path, and a pedestrian path with viewing areas.
San Francisco: The Grand Central Station of the West
The new Salesforce Transit Center in San Francisco isn’t just a bus and train station, but a neighborhood hub that wants to serve as a centerpiece for the city. Sometimes called the “Grand Central Station of the West,” it will boast a 5.4-acre park on the roof of the bus and rail station that’s sure to become a focal point downtown.
The station is expected to open later this year—exactly when remains up in the air—but eventually Salesforce Transit Center will serve as a hub for all of the region’s transportation agencies, accommodating more than 100,000 passengers each weekday.
Another project to watch—even though it’s not slated to open until 2019—is the Central Subway project through Chinatown. And outside of the city, look for a 2018 opening of the 10-mile, $2.3 billion BART to Berryessa (the first of a Silicon Valley extension of the regional BART system) and the 10-mile eBART expansion between Pittsburg/Bay Point and the city of Antioch.
Denver: New commuter rail to the suburbs
Testing of commuter rail trains resumes today along the forthcoming G Line between Union Station and Wheat Ridge. Train horns will be sounding. Please stay alert when in the area of these trains. Details at https://t.co/pji8YmgxFU pic.twitter.com/prv3Bw6gFI— RTD (@RideRTD) January 2, 2018
When will the long-delayed G Line open? That’s the hot question around Denver, which has waited since the planned opening of 2016 for the 11-mile line to connect downtown’s Union Station with the northwestern suburbs of Arvada and Wheat Ridge. The eight-station project has been stalled several times thanks to timing issues at crossing gates along the B line to Westminister and the recently opened Colorado A Line to the airport.
But 2018 could be the year for the G Line, as a judge recently gave approval for testing to resume on the problematic signaling systems. And the delayed commuter rail isn’t slowing Denver down; Curbed just recently named the Mile High City one of our nine real estate markets to watch.
Fort Worth, Texas: A rail line to the airport
Scheduled to open in December 2018, North Texas’s new TEXRail is a 27-mile commuter rail line that will extend from downtown Fort Worth to Grapevine and the Dallas-Fort Worth Airport. The $1 billion project will include eight stations, but it’s facing a lot of remaining construction before it can open.
Still, whenever it’s completed, this line will be a game changer for those wanting to avoid the traffic-plagued drive to the Dallas-Fort Worth Airport.
Connecticut: High-speed rail from New Haven to Springfield
The new CTrail Hartford Line, a $750 million project, is working to expand rail service between New Haven, Connecticut, and Springfield, Massachusetts. The project is adding 27 miles of additional double track, five new interlockings, new crossings, and new stations at Wallingford, Meriden, and Berlin.
Overall, the goal is to connect Connecticut passengers with the existing Metro-North commuter rail and Amtrak Acela services on the New Haven Line to New York and on the Northeast Corridor to New London and Boston. Service is expected to begin in May 2018.
Investment in bus rapid transit across the U.S.
While new rail lines or trolley systems make for great headlines, the national expansion of bus rapid transit (BRT) programs can’t be overlooked.
In their purest form, BRT systems aim to have the capacity and speed of a metro or subway line with the lower costs of a bus system. That means dedicated bus lanes to avoid traffic jams, off-board fare collections, and level station platforms with multiple bus doors to reduce delays.
In 2018, you can expect to see the opening of several new BRT systems. In Boston, dedicated BRT service will connect Chelsea with the Seaport District, while in San Diego, construction is underway on a $128 million, 26-mile BRT system. Other potential 2018 BRT openings include systems in Chicago; Columbus, Ohio; El Paso, Texas; Fresno, California; Grand Rapids, Michigan; Richmond, Virginia; and the Salt Lake region.