The City Council put planning for one new transit project on temporary hold Monday and decided to quash a plan for public campaign financing in Seattle. Details on the vote — and non-vote — below.
By 2018 Seattle’s street car system should be capable of shuttling riders from 10th and E Roy down to Pioneer Square, past Pike Place Market, and up to Westlake Center on a single ride. Add a transfer, and you’ll be able to ride back up to South Lake Union. The ride would be made possible by the Center City Connector – a proposed 1.1-mile downtown streetcar line along 1st Ave.
Last week, the City Council’s Transportation Committee unanimously approved the Department of Transportation’s plan for the downtown street car (PDF), which includes a stop directly in front of Pike Place Market. The Connector would essentially extend the First Hill Streetcar to Westlake Center and extend the South Lake Union Streetcar to the King St Station. In addition to laying the track, the project would including building new stations at 3rd/Stewart, 1st/Pine, and 1st/Madison.
The City Council was expected to approve the plan on Monday, but delayed the vote until July 21st to give SDOT officials more time to work on details of the proposal. The big question is how to pay for it. The new connector is estimated to cost around $110 million, but city officials hope that as much as $75 million could come from a federal grant program.
If all goes according to plan, construction of the line would start in 2016 and be complete by late 2017 or early 2018, said SDOT’s Tony Mazzella. Once the council approves the plan, the project goes to environmental review where the council will decide whether the streetcar should run in a separate lane or mix with traffic.
SDOT recommended the connector line run on an exclusive lane as it would be cheaper over time and travel times for the streetcar would be shorter.
According to Mazzella, SDOT expects a majority of connector riders would use the line to travel between South Lake Union and downtown, and between First Hill and downtown. The benefits for Capitol Hill are a little less enticing, as the University Link Extension will bring passengers from E Denny Way to downtown in just two stops by 2016.
Meanwhile, major construction of the First Hill Streetcar recently wrapped up and track and electrical testing recently got underway. The streetcar is expected to start running this November.
Public campaign financing nixed
On Monday, council members also quashed a proposal to publicly finance city council campaigns. In a 4-4 vote, the council rejected putting the proposal on the council agenda and therefore preventing council members from voting on the measure directly. Council member Mike O’Brien, who supports the measure, rebuked his colleagues for not allowing open debate on the issue. Council president Tim Burgess said he did not want to add a fifth tax/levy measure before Seattle voters this year.