Designs are nearly complete for the Broadway extension to the First Hill Streetcar that will include a new stop at Harrison and a new terminus at Roy in 2017. The question remains how to fund it.
While some small business owners say it would be a nonstarter, the City of Seattle commissioned a study last year to explore how Capitol Hill property owners might foot part of the bill through a “local improvement district.”
On Tuesday, the City Council transportation committee authorized the City to accept a $4 million state grant to put towards construction of the two stops. Combined with a $10 million federal grant, that puts the Broadway Streetcar about $10 million short of its expected cost. A LID could make up the difference by having the City issue a bond to be repaid by property owners near the project. Assessments would be made based on property value and proximity to the stops.
Here’s how it works. First, the LID needs a boundary. In the case of the Broadway Streetcar, analysts from Valbridge Property Advisors recommended an area that extends two or three blocks on either side of Broadway from Prospect to Boren.
Once the two-stop extension is complete, the study estimates the project would increase overall property values within the boundary by $20,845,000. The study assumes the LID would essentially recoup 50% of that value over 20 years to generate $10.4 million. So what does that mean for an individual property owner?
Since the Broadway property closest the streetcar extension would presumably gain the most in value, those owners would pay the highest rate: $471 a year for 20 years on a $500,000 property. The report estimates that property would see a $12,800 boost in value from the streetcar extension. Buildings in Zone A include Joule Apartments, Broadway Market and Brix Condominiums.
Property assessments decrease across eight zones as they move further away from the planned two-stop extension. In Zone G, which includes some single-family homes, property owners would pay $140 a year on $500,000 property.
As a preliminary assessment, researchers note the study is only meant to give “a rough order of magnitude of the potential assessment” and that the numbers could change considerably once each individual property is assessed. A LID would also require the approval of a certain percentage of property owners and the City Council.
The half-mile Broadway Streetcar would accompany an extension of the Broadway Bikeway starting in 2017. The new stops are estimated to serve 1,000 streetcar riders per day by 2030.
The launch of the First Hill Streetcar was a big step towards completing a connected system in Seattle. With one transfer, riders will one day be able to travel from the southern shores of Lake Union, though the Denny Triangle, downtown, the ID, First Hill, Pike/Pine, past the Capitol Hill Station light rail station, and up to Roy St.
To do that, the Seattle Department of Transportation will need to complete the Broadway Streetcar, as well as the Center City Connector to run between Westlake Station and Pioneer Square. The line is planned to run along 1st Ave with stops at Cherry, Madison, and Pike, and one more at 3rd and Stewart before connecting with the South Lake Union line on Westlake Ave.
In October, SDOT applied for a $75 million federal grant to fund the connector as it continues to study local funding options to cover the remaining $35 million. Design of the downtown line is currently 60% complete. Both the Broadway extension and Center City Connector are part of the City’s Capital Improvement Program.