With First Hill streetcar line construction rumbling toward an April start, the City Council’s transportation committee met Tuesday morning to discuss Council Bill 117387 to authorize the project even as the political effort to push for a north Broadway extension of the line continues behind the scenes. Meanwhile, Tuesday night is also the first of two open house sessions to showcase the new streetcar project.
Relating to the Seattle Streetcar; authorizing execution of a construction contract for the First Hill Streetcar Project; authorizing an amendment to an agreement with the Central Puget Sound Regional Transit Authority to revise the invoicing schedule for the Project; and ratifying and confirming prior acts.
The Council’s transportation committee has been on track for final affirmation of the agreement between Sound Transit and Seattle to pay for the streetcar route this week before passing the bill for a full Council vote. But CHS has learned that committee chair Tom Rasmussen and Michael Wells of the Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce are scheduled to meet later this week to discuss an extension of the streetcar route which is currently planned to terminate at Denny and Broadway. We reported previously that Seattle Department of Transportation planners do not expect there to be adequate revenue to fund an extension to north Broadway. Planners have said that the extension will cost between $25 and $30 million to complete.
Behind the scenes, advocates for an extension are making the case that federal funds could be brought to bear to help solve the problem. We reported on federal prospects for the extended line way back in February… 2010. Meanwhile, some at City Hall have pointed extension advocates toward private money to fund the extra track or partnerships with institutions like the Seattle Asian Art Museum as the mayor’s office remains focused on bringing light rail to Ballard. Another wildcard — King County Council member Joe McDermott whose District 2 now encompasses a majority of the area served by the First Hill streetcar route and could help balance any arguments pitting the Pioneer Square end of the route against northern extension plans.
The extension debate will likely come to a head over hundreds of thousands of dollars set aside by the City Council as a reserve for possible budget issues on the First Hill streetcar line. Before that money can be released, a plan for an extension to Aloha needs to be in place — or, finally, moved off the table completely.