First Hill Streetcar service to begin in August… hopefully

May testing of the streetcar on Broadway got everybody a little too excited

May testing of the streetcar on Broadway got everybody a little too excited, apparently

In the odd world of Seattle Department of Transportation planning, First Hill Streetcar officials have announced the line will apparently miss a milestone for the start of service that hadn’t been discussed publicly. The goal, now, SDOT director Scott Kubly said in his monthly briefing of the City Council transportation committee, is August.

“Once the qualification testing has been completed, we will be in a better position to establish the opening date,” the director’s briefing reads. “We are making every effort to be ready to start service in August, but cannot fix the date with certainty until the testing and safety certification has progressed a bit further.”

Here are more notes from the document outlining Kubly’s latest update on the rail trolley line connecting Pioneer Square to Broadway via First Hill:

  • The manufacturer has made significant progress in final assembly and testing, but they are about 30 days behind their original commitment to have all the cars ready by the end of June.
  • Six cars have been delivered to Seattle, and a seventh is en route via ship.
  • Of the three cars assembled in Seattle, two have reached the critical milestone of testing all of the wiring connections, and the third is expected to reach that milestone the week of June 29th. After the wiring continuity test, the remaining fit-out of interior finishes moves quickly and static functional testing can begin.
  • This week, qualification testing is underway. This is a verification, using testing and measuring equipment that the car performance meets all of the technical requirements, particularly for critical performance requirements such as acceleration and braking rates. If there are no significant issues encountered during qualification testing, these tests can be completed by the end of this week.
  • Once the qualification testing has been completed, we will be in a better position to establish the opening date. We are making every effort to be ready to start service in August, but cannot fix the date with certainty until the testing and safety certification has progressed a bit further. Start of qualification testing is further delayed, as testing equipment has not been released from customs.

The Seattle Times reports the streetcar as “running another month behind” and that even the Department of Homeland Security has contributed to the latest slowdown:

In addition, the $135 million project lost a week because streetcar testing equipment was held up by U.S. Customs. Sophisticated laptops, data recorders and wires arriving from the Czech Republic raised homeland-security questions because they were unfamiliar to federal inspectors, said Ethan Melone, streetcar project manager for the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT).

Last month, CHS reported on what everybody hoped was a good sign as a streetcar tram appeared on Broadway for testing.

When it does start running, streetcars will arrive at the 10 stops every 10-15 minutes from 5 AM to 1 AM Monday to Saturday and 10 AM to 8 PM on Sundays and holidays. The trains will share traffic lanes with motor vehicles. The streetcar’s current northern terminus will deliver riders to Broadway and Denny — across the street from light rail service at Capitol Hill Station. Construction of the streetcar tracks wrapped up last year along with construction of the Broadway bikeway. 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. The project will cost somewhere around $130 million. Sound Transit is footing the bill as part of mitigation for being unable to construct a First Hill station as part of the U-Link light rail project.

A plan to extend the streetcar and its accompanying bikeway north on Broadway to Roy by 2017 is being worked out as officials seek a way to pay for the two-stop extension and transformation of the north Broadway streetscape.

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11 thoughts on “First Hill Streetcar service to begin in August… hopefully

  1. Bets on whether the streetcar will start before or after the light rail?

    I’ll take before, but within 30 days.

  2. Sound Transit is bragging about finishing U Link early, and yeah for that, but they are running way behind on their promised finish time for other projects. The streetcar, as above. Broadway still has a lane closed almost exactly 6 months longer than originally promised. The sidewalk work on Broadway and John is now eight weeks into a six week project, with no sign of finishing anytime soon. The Nagle Place restoration took several weeks longer than the announcement promised and I hope it isn’t done, looking at the crappy paving job they did. Oh, and as I have written here many times, U Link isn’t on time and under budget, it’s a decade late and billions over budget.

    How about let’s fine Sound Transit management for not managing!

    • Yeah, that’s a great idea. Let’s fine Sound Transit. Then we can float a tax levy against ourselves to pay for the fines we just assessed Sound Transit. Don’t worry, I’m sure YOU won’t have to pay anything, you probably don’t own a house.

    • Blame the voters for voting down Foward Thrust making us now play catchup by building light rail in a city more dense with higher costs and more delays.

  3. @JayH

    “said Ethan Melone, streetcar project manager for the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT).”

    “Sound Transit handed over the design and management responsibility to the city, except to demand that trains arrive every 10 minutes. The streetcar will share lanes with general traffic.”

    • I concede that SDOT is doing the building, but ST is paying the bills, and they have oversight. ST gets their share of the streetcar blame. I have no objection to fining SDOT management for not managing.

      • Yeah, let’s fine them too. Then we can have another City of Seattle levy. Don’t worry, you won’t have to pay that either.

      • JayH,

        How do you figure that Sound Transit has oversight? Do you have a source? I don’t think so, because your comment is patently false.

        SDOT is running the show with Sound Transit money. The buck stops with the City of Seattle and its pathetic leadership. We are the best city in the Country, but our leaders continue to fail us, and this one goes to the head of SDOT and the Mayor. Where is the sense of urgency on their part to get this done? I hear nothing from them except crickets. Shame on them. We are stuck in traffic and they do nothing.

  4. So, when will the section of the bikeway between E Howell St and E Denny Way come back? It was sort of silly to make that bit between E Howell and E Denny only to destroy it a few months later. Not the best of planning.