SDOT has confidence it will be able to start its long-awaited Madison Street Bus Rapid Transit project next spring, and is now checking its 90-percent design with the community.

The $121 million project to create a RapidRide line from First Avenue to Martin Luther King Jr. Way via Madison Street relies heavily on a $60 million Small Starts grant from the Federal Transit Administration.

Since MPT reported on plans to scrap electric trolleybuses for diesel-hybrids in January for the Madison BRT project, the City of Seattle has been assigned an FTA project management oversight consultant and procedure documents to guide review of the project, making sure it’s ready to proceed. The process is expected to take up to six months to complete, at which point SDOT believes funds will be released.

“It’s very aggressive and tight, but we have a plan moving forward,” said SDOT project manager Josh Shippy.

The Madison BRT timeline is set for construction to begin in phases next June, after a contractor is tabbed in April. RapidRide G service is expected to begin in June 2022.

A 60-percent design that was released two years ago.

Whatever cost savings the project gained from ditching electric vehicles, negating the need for more overhead trolley wires along the route and a small power supply converter at Madison and East John streets, the budget has remained the same due to delays. SDOT decided to hold the budget at $121 million to maintain Move Seattle levy commitments.

Metro had engaged Winnipeg-based New Flyer about creating 13 60-foot articulated electric trolleybuses for the RapidRide G line for about two years.

But New Flyer ended up unable to meet the task of creating such a bus that could handle Madison’s hills, which hit a 10 percent grade up Spring Street. No other manufacturer was interested in taking on the challenge.

Metro currently uses New Flyer Excelsiors with two- and three-door configurations, and the new diesel-hybrids will have five doors. They will also have left-side entry to accommodate central station platforms that will be constructed along Madison.  RapidRide expansion lead Alex Kiheri said Metro is in the process of preparing that order.

“It’s expected that the vehicle will come in probably 4-6 months or more before the line opens,” he said.

Other changes from the 60-percent design include reconfigurations for 12th and 24th avenues, which were informed by walks with communities at those intersections, said Emily Reardon, Madison BRT community outreach lead. The bus stop at First Avenue, between Spring and Madison, has also changed from a center platform to curbside.

At the request of Seattle University, a pedestrian signal will be added at 10th and Madison, where many students cross to get to and from campus.

How the project’s phased construction will be carried out will be determined once a contractor has been brought on board.

A 24/7 bus lane will be created from First to Eighth Avenue, with center-running bus-only lanes from Ninth to 12th. The line will switch back to a 24/7 bus-only configuration up to just before 19th Avenue.

The final stop in Madison Valley was moved to 27th Avenue, Reardon said, to limit congestion at the bus layover station at MLK Jr. Way and East Arthur Place.

Fixing Madison Street to accommodate RapidRide G bus-only and bike means removing 160 parking spaces. Reardon said SDOT is trying to alleviate any issues from this with new loading zones: Spring Street, east of First; Seventh Avenue, south of Madison; Spring Street, west of Eighth; Ninth Avenue, south of Madison; and East Denny Way, north of Madison Street.

“I would say that’s a little more detailed than we were at 60-percent design,” Reardon said.