As city preps for streetcar construction, Broadway extension push gears up – UPDATED

Broadway and Denny, facing south

With the planned start of construction of the line coming as early as this fall January, we’re learning more about what the streetcar running from the International District to Capitol Hill via First Hill will look like — and whether it will be extended to run all the way up Broadway.

UPDATE: Project Manager Ethan Melone said construction will now likely begin in early 2012, as the rails will not be delivered until late January.

Later this month, a contractor will be selected by the city for what is still being called the First Hill streetcar project. The line is being built by the City of Seattle but paid for by Sound Transit to help mitigate the decision to not build a light rail station in the First Hill area. $132 million has been budgeted for the project.


Should the contractor bid come in below budget — something we’re hearing is still likely in the current economic environment — SDOT and a group from the Capitol Hill Community Council will ask Sound Transit to apportion $750,000 to create a plan to extend the line beyond the currently planned Broadway/Denny terminus all the way to Roy.

The City Council has already endorsed the streetcar extension beyond the future home of the Broadway light rail station and council president Richard Conlin recently reiterated his support in a community meeting. Mike Kent of the Capitol Hill Community Council said Conlin offered his help to seek funding that would facilitate extending the First Hill Streetcar beyond Denny and suggested the group ramp up advocacy efforts as construction bids for the already approved portion of the First Hill Streetcar hopefully come in below budget.

Meanwhile, the Sound Transit board has not exactly embraced the idea of supporting the extension.

City planners expect to begin construction on the streetcar route late this fall with a planned start of service in late 2013. Work could begin later this year between Boren and Madison, but work between Pine and Denny is not expected to start until the third quarter next year. Some preparation work is already underway.

In a new set of track and platform diagrams and a flyover video released this week, SDOT provided more details of what we’ll be getting for our $132 million.

Broadway and Pine, facing south

Design of the First Hill Streetcar has progressed to the next step, with more details about how intersections will work and a more complete design for the planned two-way bikeway. Especially for the Broadway corridor, the latest updates mostly flush out signage and traffic behavior decisions compared to when we last checked in. And yes, there is an updated visual flyover video.

Under the updated plans, the two-way bikeway would include bicycle-specific traffic signals, and many motor vehicle left and right turns would be restricted, depending on the safety of each maneuver. The bikeway, which planners say pays for itself by avoiding costly utility relocations, is being built to keep people riding bikes safe from getting their wheels caught in the streetcar tracks. People on bicycles wanting to cross Broadway from the bikeway would turn into a bike box and wait until the traffic signal turns green.

Bike box at Broadway and Pine, from a presentation to the Seattle Bicycle Advisory Board

Broadway and Terrace, facing south

Photo taken by Sunshine Monastrial from ICHS of a photo of a cane tip in the rails at the South Lake Union streetcar rails, via the IE

Meanwhile, a group in the International District has voiced concerns about tracks on 8th Ave posing a risk to the elderly, who may trip or get their canes stuck in the tracks, according the the International Examiner.

However, Seattle Transit Blog called these concerns “fearmongering,” saying that this has not been a problem in Seattle or Portland’s streetcar tracks.

32 thoughts on “As city preps for streetcar construction, Broadway extension push gears up – UPDATED

  1. No left turn from Broadway to Pine? Bad move! I’ll miss the tree lined median on Broadway near SCCC but I can understand there’s no room for it.

  2. That bike lane is really going to be awesome. It will create a very comfortable connection for Capitol Hill, SU students, Hospital workers, and Yesler Terrace.

    I do hope they at least extend the bikeway to 10th if not all the way to Roanoke.

  3. Curbs, right on red, broken sidewalks, folding signs everywhere, drain grates, electrified utility covers, slippery utility covers, tree roots, bike racks, sign posts, slippery paint lines, etc. etc. etc.

    But a track in the ground?! Now we’ve gone too far!

  4. What is old is new again… I recently took the Pike/Pine historical tour. There was a streetcar line that ran down Broadway and led to the first development on Capitol Hill. Of course, that streetcar didn’t stop halfway down Broadway and neither should this one! Roy is an acceptable ending, but the idea of a turnaround at Aloha is still preferable. We need to push for Sound Transit to see our neighborhood as a whole entity and not just a connection point so that they can make up for a bad decision regarding the First Hill light rail station being cut from the final plans.

    Thank you Richard Conlin and Sally Clark for actually voicing support for a complete streetcar route on First Hill AND Broadway.

  5. The illustrations seem to show Škoda 14T cars. We have about 160 of these in Prague. They are ugly and out of date. The newer 15T model is way ahead of its predecessor in design, looks and performance.
    I suggest that a deputation of transport people visit Prague and check out the 15T cars we have running. Go and ride them and be impressed.

  6. 11th doesn’t continue through Volunteer Park and Federal is an absolutely horrific street for biking. It is quite possibly the most pothole-filled street in Seattle. If they fix that up and put some good signage and easy transitions to Broadway then it could work.

  7. I still don’t understand why there is only one station between downtown and Husky Stadium, whether the second or third station would be on First Hill or someplace else. Yeah, this is a bit off topic, but I just had to vent.

    Capitol Hill/First Hill has the densest population of any place in the entire Pacific Northwest, and the residents already embrace mass transit.

    Just don’t understand why there isn’t a station near 15th and/or 19th and/or 24th/Montlake since a tunnel runs along this entire route.

    Ok, I’m done.

  8. I’ve heard from many-a-biker that the green paint used to make the bike lanes is extremely slick, especially in wet weather. I wonder if anyone has thought of this and if there is a solution anywhere. I would hate to see bikes skidding into traffic due to the new “safety” measures.

  9. We finally took a cue form Europe and will put a 2 way bike lane on one side of the street. I am sure it will be a full car lane wide(like we need that) Hopefully it will be about 5 feet wide. The Street car project is NOT NEEDED. I am sure it will wipe out any parking on Broadway!!! Also having the sidewalk push out into the THRU LANE for buses and new streetcar loading is STUPID! Who thought this up? Did Seattle Transportation Engineers really have any idea of TRAFFIC or MAIN AUTOMOBILE STREETS?

  10. I’m only in my 20’s, but I’ve walked with a cane for four years now. I have slipped on everything you’ve just pretty much mentioned over the years, and broken my nose a fair amount of times. Luckily, I’m apparently quite resilient. I do have to say, though that I’ve caught my crutch in rails before, and it’s scary. You do learn to be vigilant about it. As well as wet crosswalk lines, and storm grates. I can remember many times on drinking trips to Portland my friends, and I playfully making jokes whenever I would get caught in the MAX rails. However, I can see this being a problem for the elderly, but I really can’t think of a way around it. I’m really in support of all the new transit projects, and can’t wait for them to be completed. However, I don’t think just mentioning this possible issue is “Fear-mongering”. It’s good to keep people aware of these things. If it really is a problem, maybe just a sign that says “Watch your step. Ground Rails”

  11. What is the point? Busses go up and down Broadway all day. These tracks have no right-of-way so I don’t see any benefit?

  12. Metro has made noise about possible elimination / cuts to the 14N. Completing the new street car to its logical end near Aloha / north end of Broadway would ameliorate for me some of the pain of losing service on the 14N.

  13. Personally I would have to disagree. I’ve always thought Pike and Pine should remain a one-way couplet for their lengths, rather then just downtown. This design will help funnel eastbound traffic to Pike (or Union or Madison) and westbound traffic on Pine. Makes sense, and should fix that Pine/Broadway intersection which has always been horrible for pedestrians.

  14. Seattle designated 11th and Federal as a bike route years ago, but never repaved it or did any of the normal traffic-calming measures. Compare that to Portland where designated bike boulevards are really comfortable to ride on. I think Seattle is not willing to spend the money on doing it right, so this is an opportunity to use streetcar construction to provide a better bike route.

  15. Be thankful that this line is not using federal funding and thus does not have to abide by Buy America provisions. The Portland Streetcar extension is federally funded so they have been forced to use a new American streetcar manufacturer. They have already run into delays because they don’t know how to build the propulsion system correctly.

  16. Um, you know that Broadway is only one lane in each direction for most of its length, right? That means it is a minor arterial, not a major one. 23rd is the north-south speedway, not Broadway. Traffic should move slowly down a pedestrian-oriented street, and cars should get stuck behind transit, not the other way around.

  17. Well, first of all the only bus that goes all the way down Broadway to Jackson is the 9x, and that only runs every 30-60 minutes on weekdays only. This streetcar will operate 7 days a week at 10-15 minute frequency.

    Second, while a bus could have been put in instead (there was a whole study on this), Sound Transit decided that a streetcar would provide a better link between light rail stations and would get better ridership. They put it to a vote and the people voted for it in 2008.

  18. Good point. It would be more important than ever to have a good link from the north end of Broadway to the light rail station.

  19. Looping the streetcar at Aloha (like the #9 bus does now) would also allow the streetcar to terminate close to Volunteer Park … and it would still work if in the future the line was extended further north to connect to an extended SLUT line to the UW (could replace the 49 (or most of it))

  20. couple of things I noticed a while back … Terrace St. will disappear between Boren and Broadway … for more park (which I like) … also noticed one of the only switches is located there …

  21. Any one have any idea what it would cost to extend the line and have it loop around Aloha St?

    If the cost is a known value it might make it easier to raise the money …

  22. Originally the line was going to be under Broadway and Portage Bay, and there was a station planned at First Hill and another proposed at Broadway & Roy (but dropped). That alignment was too risky at the Ship Canal. Later they found another alignment going diagonally to Montlake, and dropped the First Hill station which was too far south for the new alignment to reach, but they did not revisit the question of adding stations. I never heard any suggestions for stations at 15th and 23rd until after the ST2 vote. I also wonder how expensive they’d be, since they’d have to be deep underground, and where the money for them would have come from.

  23. Whatever cars we use here will be customized to some degree. This streetcar will run off-wire (i.e. on battery) for about half a mile at each end, due to the complex trolley overhead. I wouldn’t read anything into the streetcar models they’ve chosen for these conceptual mock-ups.

  24. Looks like the new lanes on Broadway are going with two-way travel lane for bikes and no parking for cars. So having an every-ten minute-streetcar is extremely usefull. Traffic may go away by half if you don’t have a parking spot to go to on Broadway.

  25. A station at 15th or 19th would be incredibly expensive. It would have to be deeper than the station at Broadway, and the properties that would need to be condemned would be extensive, both in cost and neighborhood impact. It would be a very costly and challenging project, and wouldn’t add a large number of additional riders for the cost. North Capitol Hill is dense, but the not as dense as Broadway or First Hill. Anyone who rides the 10 or 43 regularly will notice that a large percentage of riders exit at Broadway.

    Link operates as a mostly grade-separated main line, with higher speeds and fewer stops than a streetcar service, so building a large station at Broadway, with supporting surface rail and bus trolly service (10, 43, 12) is an acceptable compromise. The thing now is to continue to push Metro for upgrades to the trolly system, both in equipment and increased frequency, extending the streetcar to Aloha (though Boston St would be great, someday), and to support increased residential density around the Broadway station and along current trolly and streetcar lines. All of these things are doable, given the large in the neighborhood, and can be implemented over time, as budgets and voter decisions permit.