Land must be selected and either bought or expropriated. Environmental assessments are performed. Ground studies determine the ability of the soil to support the heavy trains and tracks.
Below are some of the steps light-rail systems typically undergo during construction:
Transportation master plan
The justifications and need for light rail are outlined in the context of a city’s entire transit system.
City council, with input from public consultations, the Ministry of Environment and outside consultants, determines the extent to which light rail will affect ecologically sensitive areas and the surrounding urban environment.
Geotechnical and hydrogeological investigation
Consultants determine the ability of the soil to support above-ground transportation and, in some cases, tunnels.
Determining in detail what the stations and system will look like architecturally.
Request for qualifications/proposals
The city canvasses contractors to find out who would meet the qualifications to deliver the light-rail system. Once a short list of companies is determined, the city issues a request for proposals where companies outline their vision for the system and suggested construction process.
Since light rail is intended to serve dense, downtown areas, this inevitably means months or years of negotiations with landowners to buy their properties. This can range from individuals to institutions to corporations. When negotiations fail, the city reverts to expropriation.
Award of contract/preparation work
Once a firm has been awarded the contract, the company gets to work preparing the land for rail. This can include steps such as putting in drainage, removing trees and natural features, and adjusting roads.
Building the stations, boring through and shoring up tunnels (when needed), laying down the tracks.
Trains can be purchased as part of a package of other work with a contractor, or sometimes in conjunction with other cities to reduce costs.
This ranges from basic lighting and electrical, to features typical of a transportation system such as signage, security cameras and public address systems.
Transit operators run the trains along the tracks, testing signals and passenger systems, to determine the system works properly before public use.
Sources: Cities of Calgary, Edmonton, Ottawa, Waterloo