Following a lunch hour groundbreaking ceremony at a midway point of the 2.5 mile route, work to build Seattle’s second 21st century streetcar line is beginning with the first pavement being cracked on Capitol Hill.
“That’s what’s so great about today’s streetcar announcement is we’re going to do a better job of connecting Seattle’s neighborhoods to each other and to the regional light rail system,” Mayor Mike McGinn said to start the groundbreaking ceremony held at the intersection of Boylston and Broadway near the future Marion stop of the streetcar line.
“The First Hill streetcar will not only provide better connections between First Hill and other parts of the Sound Transit and Metro Transit systems,” said King County Executive Dow Constantine, “it will also influence and guide the development of our neighborhoods.”
Former mayor Greg Nickels, City Council members Tom Rasmussen and Sally Clark were on hand for the groundbreaking as were state leaders Jim McDermott and Ed Murray and the county council’s Larry Phillips who talked about the tough decision not to go forward with a light rail station that had been planned to serve First Hill.
With a target to be operational by early 2014 and planners expecting some 6,000 people per day to use the line, the first work on the $134 million route that will connect Pioneer Square, the International District and Capitol Hill via First Hill includes moving utilities around Broadway in preparation for the start of track laying later this summer.
The first significant project is planned to start this weekend with work to remove the median from Broadway in front of Seattle Central.
Thanks to Lookin4TallGuys for more pictures from the ceremony.
The work will bring a few hassles to people trying to use the streets and sidewalks along the route at times. Here’s what SDOT says to expect. CHS will monitor construction updates and try to bring the most significant disruptions to light as they come.
Lane restrictions and pedestrian detours– Drivers should expect lane closures on weekdays and full intersection closures on weekends.
Bicyclist and pedestrian detours – access to businesses and residences will be maintained, however, during certain times crosswalks and/or sidewalks will be closed. Near work zones there will be times when bicyclist will be required to merge with traffic or directed to utilize alternate routes.
Parking and loading restrictions- Long-term parking and loading zone restrictions will be required in and around the work site(s). There will also be short-term driveway closures along the primary construction streets. Advance notice will be provided for any upcoming driveway restrictions.
Bus stop closures and closures – Bus service will be maintained within the project area. During certain times specific bus stops will be closed or relocated. During the weekend when intersections are closured if it is not possible to flag them through work zones buses will be detoured. King County Metro will provide advance notice to riders of any bus stop relocations or closures.
Short-term utility interruptions– Some buildings adjacent to the streetcar route can expect up to three short-term interruptions to their water service during construction in locations where water lines are being replaced. SPU will provide formal notification to customers and coordinate the best time for outages with affected residents, businesses, and institutions.
Additional noise, dust and truck activity
The SDOT construction page says to expect “substantial” work to be done early in the morning, at night and on the weekends and that the city “has placed a number of conditions on the contractor that are intended to reduce the overall impacts of the construction to surrounding businesses and residences.”
Biking along Broadway could be especially precarious — for a few years. SDOT is recommending 12th Ave as an alternate route.
When completed, the First Hill streetcar line will have four stops in our neck of the woods — Broadway at Terrace, Broadway at Marion, Broadway at E Pike and the currently planned final stop, Broadway at Denny. There are no details yet on planned fares but the South Lake Union line is now charging $2.50 and continues to increase ridership with more than 500,00 using that line in 2011, according to the city.
Most of the funding for the streetcar line is being provided by Sound Transit in lieu of a First Hill-area station that could not be built as part of the light rail line. This recent report from the Seattle Times has more on the situation that lead to the current plan. Sound Transit will provide $120 million to fund construction of the line which the city will manage. Any construction overruns will be the responsibility of the city. Sound Transit will also provide $5.2 million annually for the city to operate the line. General contractor on the project Stacy and Witbeck says the project will entail 70 full-time jobs during the construction phases.
Changes to Broadway will include more than just the new tracks and trains. The line will also transform Broadway into a more pedestrian and bike friendly environment with the introduction of a bikeway, more pedestrian features and the elimination of many of Broadway’s left-hand turn opportunities.
in the meantime, residents, workers and merchants — and events — will have to live through some of the inconveniences of a major infrastructure project. Many of them have been living in the midst of heavy construction for years starting with the 2007 demolition of buildings along Broadway for the light rail site. Muck-hauling trucks are still plying Capitol Hill streets as the final tunneling is completed by the boring machine making its way up the Hill for one last run from downtown to Broadway and Denny. Tunneling will be complete bu things will get even busier in 2013 as construction of the Broadway light rail station and accompanying developments will begin.
City planners are also continuing to work on financing a north extension to continue the streetcar line past its currently planned terminus at Denny Way all the way to Aloha. Officials have said the city is looking at federal funding opportunities for the $30 million extension. A plan to pay for initial planning of the extension is now in motion:
Now we are turning our focus to extending the line north on Broadway through the heart of the commercial district. This summer, the City will use a mixture of $50,000 in federal funds and $450,000 in local funds to begin environmental review on the north Broadway extension. That’s the first step toward competing for the federal funds we’ll need to build it.
We are also applying for regional funds to pay for engineering and final design. With the help of Councilmembers Jean Godden and Mike O’Brien, the streetcar extension was selected as one of twelve projects that the Puget Sound Regional Council is considering funding. If successful, the PSRC funds can help pay for the $2.5 million cost of the engineering and final design in 2013.
The construction cost for the extension is estimated at $22 million. We still have a lot of work to do in order to secure the local funding and federal grants we’ll need to pay for construction, but we’ve made a good start by identifying funds to begin the environmental review process. I want to thank Councilmember Tom Rasmussen for his longstanding support for this project and helping get it closer to reality.
When service begins in 2014, it will mark the return of streetcars to Capitol Hill after a 70-some-year absence.
More on the First Hill Streetcar
- First Hill Streetcar overview from SDOT open house
20132014 — Construction to begin in April
- $30 million north Broadway streetcar extension still in play
- Who will ride the First Hill streetcar? Broadway people
- Paid for and routed, First Hill streetcar gets final design touches before construction
- Streetcar update: Broadway Bikeway will help Capitol Hill ‘reclaim the street’
- Construction schedule — click for details: