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Variability in Light Rail Costs Per Kilometre

A number of geographic, political and technical factors go into the capital cost of building a light rail line, so prices tend to vary significantly from one location to another.

By Nicholas Kevlahan

The capital costs per kilometre for light rail project varies widely. As stated by the American Public Transportation Association:

  • "Costs of streetcar lines vary widely, because the characteristics of streetcar lines vary widely. In fact, it can be difficult to obtain the construction cost of a streetcar line, because building the line is often part of a larger project that includes other elements."

  • The cost also varies depending on how many cars are purchased initially, and what sort of shed/cleaning facilities are included. New streetcar lines often include a complete rebuilding of the street and services, as well as refurbishing building facades.

  • Another potential cost factor is the price of buying land to use for the light rail route. This pushed the cost of Tampa, Florida's light rail network to $15.2 million/km, compared to $1.9 million/km in Kenosha, Wisconsin and $4.9 million/km in Little Rock, Arkansas.