The First Hill Streetcar tracks are ready to roll, but the streetcars themselves are not, and won’t be ready until sometime “early” next year, according to city transit officials. The delay will cost the streetcar manufacturer thousands of dollars on its $26.7 million contract with SDOT.
Last Tuesday, Seattle Department of Transportation’s rail transit manager Ethan Melone told city council members that the streetcar’s Czech manufacturer, Inekon, recently incurred a backlog of orders and a short supply of parts, including brakes, which was holding up production. Inekon, which built the South Lake Union streetcars, is also working out a wiring design issue.
“It’s not unexpected, but it’s definitely not ideal,” said SDOT spokesperson Rick Sheridan. “It’s an industry with a limited number of suppliers.”
The six streetcars for the First Hill line were supposed to be ready by October 7th as per the $26.7 million contract with SDOT. An SDOT spokesperson told CHS that Inekon will pay $25,000 after the first day of delay and $1,000 per day thereafter.
Three of the six trains are currently undergoing final assembly in Seattle, while three others remain in the Czech Republic. According to SDOT, production in the Czech Republic is on hold until assembly and testing is finished in Seattle.
In February CHS reported that Inekon incurred a fire resistance issue with the streetcar floors, which pushed back the streetcar’s projected start time from this summer to November. SDOT officials said the fire issue was resolved earlier this year.
During the City Council meeting, committee chair Tom Rasmussen acknowledged that he had been briefed on the problems in February but criticized SDOT for missing deadlines on quarterly reports on the manufacturing problems.
Newly appointed SDOT director Scott Kubly told CHS that getting the First Hill Streetcar off the ground was a major priority so his department can move forward with plans to build a downtown line to connect the South Lake Union and First Hill lines.
“The really transformative part of streetcar happens when we get the Center City Connector,” he said. “Then the network really starts to pop.”
Kubly, who lives in the Central District, said he’s still familiarizing himself with the neighborhood transit option as he’s mostly stuck to walking to and from his Municipal Tower office.
Before coming to Seattle Kubly spent part of 2014 heading up Alta, the company that’s managing Seattle’s new bikeshare program. As bike stations were getting installed last week CHS reported that the first-of-their-kind helmet vending machines would not be ready for the program’s October launch. When asked whether the city’s strict all-ages helmet laws needed to be changed to better accommodate bikeshares, Kubly said he didn’t have an answer, but that Pronto should move forward as is.
Once the First Hill line is running, the Broadway Streetcar is being planned as a half-mile, two-stop extension north from Denny that will also include an extended Broadway bikeway. Construction of the two stops, the tracks, and the bikeway could begin in 2016 with an opening in 2017. Meanwhile, Sound Transit expects Capitol Hill Station and the U-Link light rail line between downtown, Broadway, and Montlake to begin service by early 2016.