Today’s City Council transportation committee briefing on the Capitol Hill streetcar was illuminating. The discussion was focused on status of the ‘termsheet’ agreement between Sound Transit and the City of Seattle to pay for, plan and manage the line designed to connect Union Station to the Capitol Hill light rail station when it is completed in 2016. Sound Transit is funding the city project in lieu of a First Hill-area station that will not be built as part of the light rail line. Fully City Council will have to approve the final terms — from the briefing, sounds like that needs to happen in May/June timeframe so the Sound Transit board can approval the expenditure in June.
Here are some takeaways from today’s briefing:
- The city is positioning the opportunity to speed decisions and build the $140 million streetcar soon as an opportunity for ‘cost savings.’
- The line’s specific route was not discussed though Ethan Melone from SDOT referred repeatedly to Broadway, the most direct route to the Capitol Hill light rail station. Groups seeking to have alternative routes considered like 12th Ave or a 12th Ave-Broadway loop will have some work to do countering the urgency injected by the ‘cost savings’ argument.
- If enough savings are achieved, the termsheet would allow for extra money to be applied to extending the route past the light rail station at John at Broadway. Sound Transit estimates that an extension from John to Aloha would cost about $26 million. You can see general routes for three possible alternatives on this post.
- There is a provision in the termsheet that construction of the streetcar cannot impede construction of the light rail system. This would likely mean the initial streetcar line would run only from Union Station to the Pike/Pine area until the majority of the light rail construction is completed.
- If the streetcar route from Union Station to Capitol Hill does end up with the accelerated schedule, it will be an island route until it can be connected to the route planned for downtown to connect with the service in South Lake Union.
- Standing on its own will also mean the route needs its own $14 million maintenance facility which will eat into those cost savings.
- Oh, and going early will also mean some additional financing costs given Sound Transit had been planning on paying for this closer to 2016.
- Council Member Tom Rasmussen took a step backward and couldn’t resist asking if the money for the entire project would be better spent on increasing Metro bus service. He was roundly booed. It’s an unlikely scenario given that the Council would have to find mechanism to reverse a ballot decision.
- Misc. service details: Trains will run every 10 minutes at peak, 20 minutes off-peak, 20 hours a day except on Sundays when they’ll run a reduced 12-hour schedule