Driver stuck under tractor-trailer

Is construction on RVA’s rapid bus system slow? Not comparatively

RICHMOND, Va. -- I don’t know about you, but for the past year I’ve been watching the construction of the bus rapid transit PULSE line running down the middle of Broad Street and wondered, what in the world is taking them so long?

If this had been Singapore, they would’ve built it in two weeks.

But a check with some of the other cities that are doing the same thing – or have done it – reveal we’re not doing so bad after all.

Richmond is one of 30 cities that has gotten big federal dollars for eco-friendly bus rapid transit systems that resemble Richmond’s old streetcar system of yore.

Construction on ours, which began with utility work in August 2016 and station work in January, will cost a little more than $47 million dollars, with a total price tag of $65 million.

The contractor, Lane Construction, in on time, but didn’t earn a nice $3 million bonus for finishing early, according GRTC spokeswoman Carrie Rose.

The city had hoped to be done by the end of the year, but that likely won’t happen.

If they’re not finished by the end of June, the contractor faces $4,450 dollar-a-day fines, Rose said.

“Currently the project is on time and in budget,” she said.

Now consider Cleveland, Ohio, which won an international award for its years-old HEALTH rapid bus system. It runs right down the middle of their main drag - Euclid Avenue - for seven miles, a half-mile shorter than our route.

It took three full years and $200 million, more than three times the cost of ours.

It has been credited with transforming Cleveland’s center city.

And consider the 10-mile A.R.T. rapid bus line in Albuquerque, New Mexico, that runs down their Broad Street, Central Avenue. They’re  14 months in with months more to go.  Its construction will cost $83 million with a total budget of $126 million, which includes things like design and buses.

One section of it opened this past Sunday.

Complaints about the project there and construction tie-ups and delays have made our grumbling seem tame. There’s even an A.R.T. Blues song that does a pretty good job of showing how the line runs through the city.

We like to think we’ve cornered the market on the dysfunction blues in RVA, but in the past few years this town has shaken them off, in my opinion.

It appears we’re going mighty fine I do suppose (to quote Johnny Cash) with our PULSE budget and construction pace - at least comparatively.

So how do these things work?

The jury is out in Albuquerque, which sounds like it has the same complaints, resistance and fears that we have here.

But reports out of Cleveland are fairly glowing, with seemingly few issues with the stops being in the middle of the street, as they are with most of these federally funded BRT systems.

This could be really cool for our booming city if we give it a chance - and get it done.