Sound Transit Board authorizes contract for Sounder commuter rail cars

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The Board of Sound Transit - the Central Puget Sound Regional Transit Authority - has authorized a contract for the manufacture and purchase of its first fleet of rail cars for the Sounder commuter rail service with Bombardier Transit Corporation of Ontario. The contract totals $74.7 million for 38 passenger rail coach cars, including taxes, training support, and spare parts. The contract includes an option for Sound Transit to obtain an additional 20 cars in the future, which would bring the contract total to $111.4 million. 

The awarding of the contract keeps the Sounder commuter rail system on schedule for inaugurating two-way rush-hour passenger rail service on the existing railroad tracks between Tacoma and Seattle by the end of 1999. The contract calls for delivery of at least six cars by December 1999, allowing service to begin with two three-car trains. At least five additional cars are to be delivered monthly thereafter until the initial order is completed.

The bid called for bi-level cars capable of seating 140 people each, with low-floor boarding for fast and easy passenger loading and unloading. The Sound Transit board also required a number of passenger amenities in the bid, including work tables at a number of seats, surge-protected outlets for laptop computers, and cupholders for coffee or other beverages. Eighteen of the initial 38 passenger cars will be "cab cars" - which are passenger coaches equipped with a control cab to allow the engineer to operate the train from the car. By placing a cab car at the opposite end of the train from the locomotive, a train can be operated in both directions without having to be turned around. 

The board's approval of the contract followed the receipt by the agency of Federal Transit Administration approval of its environmental assessment for the Tacoma/Seattle segment of the commuter rail line. The FTA's issuance of the Finding of No Significant Impact - or FONSI - is a major milestone for Sound Transit's Sounder system, allowing the agency to proceed with procuring equipment, developing station sites and making other improvements necessary to begin passenger service on schedule by the end of 1999. Sounder service will be extended between Tacoma and Lakewood, and between Seattle and Everett by the end of 2000. 

Because Sound Transit's Invitation for Bids resulted in only one responsive bidder, an FTA-mandated price and cost analysis was completed comparing the bid price with recent comparable procurements elsewhere in the country to assure a fair and competitive price. Sound Transit also completed a bid analysis to ensure that Bombardier could deliver on the commitments made in its bid proposal. 

In addition to the 81-mile Sounder commuter rail service between Everett and Lakewood, Sound Transit is developing a 25-mile Link light rail line to serve communities between Northgate and SeaTac, a 1.6-mile Tacoma Link light rail line, and a network of 20 new limited-stop Regional Express bus routes all with easy connections to local transit services. 

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Sound Transit plans, builds and operates regional transit systems and services to improve mobility for Central Puget Sound.