Wilmington, DE/Transit Connector B-47

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Wilmington Transit Connector

Wilmington, Delaware

(August 2001)


The Delaware Transit Corporation (DTC) proposes to construct the Wilmington Transit Connector, a 2.1-mile electric rail trolley system, originating at 12th and Market Streets, operating through the Wilmington central business district and terminating at the Christina Riverfront area. Vintage replica rail vehicles would be utilized to preserve the historical character of the service area. The project is undertaken as a public-private partnership initiative between the City of Wilmington and the Wilmington Renaissance Corporation, a private-sector nonprofit organization supporting downtown development and economic opportunities. The project will connect the heart of the downtown Wilmington banking center to the revitalized Christina Riverfront mixed-use development area, with an intermediate stop at the Amtrak intermodal station. The proposed route encompasses the major business, commercial and cultural activity centers of the city. Twenty-three stations/stops are planned from Rodney Square to the riverfront area. The estimated capital cost of the project developed during the early planning stage is $41.7 million (escalated dollars).


Summary Description

Proposed Project:

Electric rail trolley;

2.1 miles, 23 stations/stops

Total Capital Cost ($YOE):

$ 41.7 million

Section 5309 New Starts Share ($YOE):

$ 29.2 million

Annual Operating Cost ($YOE):

$ 2.3 million

Ridership Forecast (2006):

3,400 avg. weekday boardings

FY 2002 Finance Rating:


FY 2002 Project Justification Rating:


FY 2002 Overall Project Rating:


The Recommended rating is based on the projectís compliance with statutory requirements and justification criteria at this early stage of preliminary engineering. The overall project rating applies to this Supplemental Report on New Starts and reflects conditions as of August 2001. The project includes a proposed Federal share of 70 percent from 5309 new starts funding that meets the statutory maximum of 80 percent but is above a Congressional desire to fund projects at 60 percent in FY 2003 and the Administrationís target of 50 percent in FY 2004. Project evaluation is an ongoing process, and FTA is continuing to encourage project sponsors to lower the requested Federal share of new starts funding as projects move through the development process. Financial plans should include a maximum Federal share of 50 percent by FY 2004 to remain competitive with other projects in the New Starts pipeline and to meet lower Federal share requirements proposed for the reauthorization of TEA-21. The FTA ratings and recommendations will be updated annually to reflect new information, changing conditions, and refined financing plans.


The Delaware Department of Transportation, Delaware Transit Corporation, and the City of Wilmington completed an Alternatives Analysis in December 2000 to address transportation needs within downtown Wilmington. The project was adopted by the Wilmington Area Planning Council and is included in its long-range transportation plan and FY 2000 Transportation Improvement Program. FTA approved this projectís entry into preliminary engineering in August 2001. DTC is currently undertaking an environmental analysis for the project.

TEA-21 Section 3030(b)(72) authorizes the "Wilmington Downtown Transit Corridor." Through FY 2001, Congress has appropriated $5.93 million in Section 5309 New Starts funds to the project.


The following criteria have been estimated in conformance with FTAís Technical Guidance on Section 5309 New Starts Criteria. Criteria have been reported and evaluated on the Wilmington Transit Connector. Use of the regional network planning model was deemed inappropriate by the project sponsor given the scope and scale of the proposed project. During PE, FTA will work with the Delaware Transit Corporation to improve ridership forecasting capabilities and to ensure updated cost estimates. N/A indicates that data are not available for a specific measure.

FTA has evaluated this project as being in early preliminary engineering.


The Medium project justification rating reflects the relatively high densities and transit supportive land uses in the corridor and the projectís strong cost-effectiveness.

Mobility Improvements

Rating: Not Rated

DTC did not apply a regional network planning model that would generate travel time savings. Based on 1990 Census data, there are an estimated 3,126 low-income households within a

½-mile radius of the project corridor.

Environmental Benefits

Rating: Not Rated

DTC did not apply a regional network planning model that would generate environmental benefits. EPA has designated the Philadelphia-Wilmington-Trenton area as a severe nonattainment area for ozone.

Operating Efficiencies

Rating: Low-Medium

DTC estimates the following costs per passenger mile for the project.




New Start

System Operating Cost per Passenger Mile (2006)




Values reflect ridership based on a locally developed model and 1998 dollars.

Cost Effectiveness

Rating: Medium-High

DTC estimates the following cost effectiveness index for the project.



New Start vs.


New Start vs.


Incremental Cost per Incremental Passenger



Values reflect ridership based on a locally developed model and 1998 dollars.

Transit-Supportive Existing Land Use and Future Patterns

Rating: Medium-High

The Medium-High land use rating reflects the project location in the high-density Wilmington CBD.

Existing Conditions: The project corridor lies within the relatively high-density Wilmington central business district, which includes high-rise office buildings, three to five story commercial buildings with ground floor retail and hotels, enclaves of two to three story row houses, and a riverfront area redeveloping from industrial to retail and recreational uses. The entire corridor is laid out on a street grid pattern that is relatively pedestrian friendly. Total CBD employment is 45,000. Population densities are relatively high, averaging 18,600 persons per square mile in the CBD. Several high trip generators are located in the corridor, including seven colleges, a hospital, historic commercial core, stadium, arts center, rail/bus station, and riverfront and tourist destinations.

Several initiatives at the state, regional and city level are designed to contain sprawl in the Wilmington area and municipal development plans are all transit-supportive. Regional and county plans call for directing growth to the regionís centers, and the county has downzoned rural areas. The cityís comprehensive plan and urban renewal plans encourage mixed use development and direct growth to the CBD and the waterfront area. Strategies to maintain the attractiveness of the CBD include improved transit service, streetscaping, zoning changes and housing incentives.

Future Plans and Policies: Nearly all development proposed or underway in the City of Wilmington is located within the Wilmington Transit Connector corridor. This new development includes corporate offices, downtown housing above stores, riverfront housing, and retail and entertainment centers. The Transit Connector is part of the broader "Wilmington Initiatives" which support the redevelopment of Wilmingtonís downtown and focuses on transit and pedestrian improvements. The City and MPO have undertaken educational efforts regarding the importance of land use to successful provision of transit. The City, in partnership with the private sector, is implementing an aggressive strategy based on financial incentives to reinvigorate the Wilmington economy by attracting jobs and residents. Public outreach is a significant part of the project.

Local Financial Commitment

Proposed Local Share of Total Project Costs: 30%

The current project financial plan proposes to use $29.2 million (70 percent of total project costs) in Section 5309 New Starts funds, and $12.6 million (30 percent) provided equally from three local sources: State of Delaware Transportation Trust Fund, City of Wilmington, and the Wilmington Renaissance Corporation, a private-sector nonprofit organization.

Stability and Reliability of Capital Financing Plan

Rating: Medium

The Medium capital finance plan rating reflects the reliable state funding source and the City of Wilmingtonís strong capital market standing.

Agency Capital Financial Condition: The Delaware Transportation Trust Fund is a stable and secure source of funding, deriving revenues from fuel taxes, vehicle registration fees and tolls. Bond ratings for the City of Wilmington are in the medium-high range. Delaware Transit Corporation has an average bus fleet age of 5.9 years.

Capital Cost Estimates and Contingencies: The capital cost estimate was developed in early planning studies and will need to be refined during PE.

Existing and Committed Funding: State Transportation Trust Funds have been committed in the Delaware DOT 2001-2006 Capital Improvement Program. City funds will be appropriated annually to the project.

New and Proposed Sources: A Transportation Business Improvement District (BID) will be established in the project corridor or increasing tax rates in the existing downtown BID. DTC is also investigating additional revenue sources including a hotel occupancy levy, an amusement levy on Riverfront area attractions, and a downtown parking surcharge.

Stability and Reliability of Operating Finance Plan

Rating: Medium

The Medium operating finance plan rating reflects the stable state operating funding source.

Agency Operating Financial Condition: The Delaware Transportation Trust Fund is a stable and secure source of operating funds for the project, with a demonstrated track record. Project fare revenue assumptions are considered conservative.

Operating Cost Estimates and Contingencies: Operating cost estimates are acceptable at this time and reflect a reasonable rate of inflation. More detailed operating plans and cost estimates will need to be developed during PE.

Existing and Committed Funding: Delaware Transportation Trust Fund is the primary operating revenue source subsidizing the project.

New and Proposed Sources: The Wilmington Renaissance Corporation will provide approximately 8 percent of operating funds.

Locally Proposed Financing Plan
(Reported in $YOE)


Proposed Source of Funds

Total Funding ($million)


Appropriations to Date

  Section 5309 New Starts


($ 5.93 million appropriated through FY 2001)
  State Appropriations


  City of Wilmington


  Wilmington Renaissance Corp.





NOTE: Funding proposal reflects assumptions made by project sponsors, and are not DOT or FTA assumptions. Totals may not add due to rounding.