For years, maps of the First Hill Streetcar on Broadway have shown a dotted line extending north of E Denny Way to indicate the possible addition of two or three more stops to the route. The city is now ready to fill-in that line, and end it at Broadway and Roy.
Officials at the Seattle Department of Transportation say they have settled on a $25 million extension of the streetcar with a stop at Broadway and Harrison and a terminus at Broadway and Roy — two stops bewilderingly known as the Broadway Streetcar. The city had been considering an additional third stop at 10th and Prospect, but officials said the estimated $12 million price tag outweighed the benefits of extending the line near Volunteer Park.
“In some respects, the writing was on the wall. When we came back with the gross cost estimates, it was a lot,” said SDOT spokesperson Art Brochet.
The First Hill Street car is expected to open in November, running from Pioneer Square to a temporary Capitol Hill terminus at E Denny Way. When service begins, the First Hill Streetcar will have ten stations along a 2.5 mile route from S Jackson and Occidental to Broadway and Denny Way and will connect Pioneer Square, the ID, Little Saigon, First Hill and Capitol Hill.
Planning for the half-mile, two-stop extension is now 30% complete. Brochet said construction of the two stops could begin in 2016 with an opening in 2017.
Several organizations were advocating for an E Prospect terminus, including the Seattle Asian Art Museum, the Volunteer Park Trust, and the Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce. The Prospect terminus would have also provided a desired connection between Chinatown/ID and the Bruce Lee gravesite in Lake View Cemetery. Kimerly Rorschach, director and CEO of SAM, said in an email she had hoped the streetcar would go to Prospect.
We were disappointed to learn that the Broadway streetcar could not be extended all the way to Prospect Street to provide easier access for visitors and residents to one of our City’s greatest parks and the Asian Art Museum. We are still supportive of the Broadway extension and feel it will improve access and mitigate the limited parking situation in and around the park.
According to SDOT, the line could be extended past Roy at a later date.
The big question before the streetcar extension now is how to fund it. SDOT currently has enough money to completely design the two stops, thanks to Transportation Benefit District spending the City Council passed last year. The two stop extension will cost an estimated $25 million.
According to SDOT, partial community funding will be required to qualify for most federal grants. To do that, the city has already begun studying the creation of a Local Improvement District, whereby building owners along the line would pay into a fund for a certain number of years.
Michael Wells, executive director of the Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce, said a LID would face major opposition from north Broadway business owners, who are trying to breath new life into the business corridor.
“We’ve always been clear we did not want a LID,” he said. “If it is a LID, we’ll have to be very clear who the rate payers are and how long they will pay.”
Meanwhile, drivers are still getting used to interacting with the existing elements along the streetcar line. Photos of cars and delivery trucks blocking the Broadway bikeway continue to be readily available on Twitter. According to SDOT, no vehicle is allowed to park in the bike lane, including delivery trucks. If you see a vehicle parked in the bikeway you can report it through the city’s Find-It-Fix-It or SPD’s non-emergency line at (206) 625-5011. An SPD spokesperson said people can always call 911 if they deem the situation to be an “in-progress hazard.”
The decision to terminate the streetcar at Roy likely means Broadway’s extended two-way bikeway will transition to one-way bike lanes beyond the terminus.