Officials say progress on a $75 million federal grant for a planned 1st Ave streetcar won’t necessarily affect the schedule for a possible 2017 start of construction for a two-stop Broadway extension to the recently opened First Hill route.
Tuesday, Seattle Department of Transportation officials said that the White House’s proposed $4.1 trillion budget — the last for President Barack Obama — includes 0.00182926829% for Seattle’s planned Center City Connector streetcar route envisioned as linking the First Hill Streetcar with the South Lake Union line by 2019. In total, SDOT says 25,000 riders per day could use the system — though few would find it useful to complete the Broadway to Westlake circuit via Occidental Square.
According to SDOT, the recommendation is only a first step toward a final grant agreement, which can only be completed after Congress approves the budget, “so we don’t expect the grant agreement before late 2016/early 2017.” Construction of the 1st Ave line would begin in 2017 and operations would mostly likely begin in 2019, a SDOT spokesperson said.
The Broadway Streetcar extension project, meanwhile, is now in what SDOT calls the final design phase and calls for adding two streetcar stops on Broadway — one at Harrison and a new terminus at Roy — that would extend the First Hill Streetcar route and accompanying Broadway Bikeway by a half mile starting with construction in 2017. The new stops are estimated to serve 1,000 riders per day by 2030. But 2030 and that half mile may only be part of the journey.
CHS reported in late January on the Capitol Hill business community’s increasing wariness of the extension project after the First Hill Streetcar suffered long delays after months of disruptive construction. Funding remains a question mark. SDOT has secured $10 million in federal funding and $4 million in state grants toward construction, leaving the project roughly $10 million short. Using a Local Improvement District is one option to make up the difference by raising the property taxes of buildings near the project based on value added due to the streetcar extension. It requires a certain percentage of businesses to vote in favor of the tax and approval by the City Council.
The 1st Ave route, as long as Congress doesn’t take notice of that 0.00182926829%, appears to have much smoother tracks to run on. “Seattle thanks President Obama and our Congressional delegation for the incredible support so far for downtown transit,” Mayor Ed Murray said in City Hall’s announcement about the grant. “We look forward to working with our supporters in Congress to change how downtown residents, workers and visitors move around the urban core.”
It will also be — literally — faster. Learning from issues already sometimes painfully apparent along the First Hill line, the 1st Ave streetcar is being planned with its own dedicated route and won’t share lanes with vehicle traffic. CHS proposal: Also make the First Hill route streetcar-only. No?
After a few weeks of free rides and higher than expected ridership, the First Hill Streetcar will begin requiring paid fares next week following a weekend lion dance in the International District to celebrate the new line connecting Pioneer Square, the ID, First Hill, and Capitol Hill. More free ride dates are planned in conjunction with upcoming art walks in the various neighborhoods and for a few big events including July’s Capitol Hill Block Party. There’s also a Capitol Hill celebration of the streetcar line being planned for May 12th.