Support from Broadway businesses is lacking for the current design and the financial plan, and with the neighborhood adjusting to the light rail station and the First Hill Streetcar, the Seattle Department of Transportation has stepped back from the extension with the intention to revisit the plan with stakeholders sometime in 2017.
Unless the plans change, the support SDOT is looking for likely won’t be there.
“If we want to see Broadway thrive … the streetcar is actually the best way to undermine that,” Sierra Hansen, Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce executive director told CHS. Initially, the chamber supported the project, but that’s no longer the case.
Since taking on the role of executive director in November 2015, Hansen has spoken to many businesses about the extension and the overwhelming majority oppose it.
The design is about 90% complete, SDOT’s transit mobility director Andrew Glass Hastings said, which also includes extending the separated Broadway bikeway. As the plan is right now, Hansen said the design would negatively impact businesses.
“It would basically gut access to businesses on Broadway,” she said.
The extension plan includes removal of another handful of left turns on Broadway, restricting mobility, Hansen said. She said access for delivery trucks is a particular concern as they are already dealing with difficulties on Broadway and at times park in the bikeway to make a delivery.
“The design is seriously flawed because it limits the access of panel trucks, which are the lifeblood of these businesses,” Hansen said.
Bike advocates would probably also like to see the extension — no matter how few stops it will actually add — be better engineered for bicycle safety.
The First Hill Streetcar opened in January 2016 to little fanfare after long delays to begin service on the new line connecting Pioneer Square to Capitol Hill via First Hill. The 2.5-mile route shares streets with vehicular traffic and, as a result, is subject to slowdowns that also snarl buses and commuters in cars. Unlike the South Lake Union line which average around 2,000 riders per day in recent months, the city does not make regular reports on ridership on the First Hill line available. SDOT’s 2017 budget expects the line to generate only $121,000 in farebox revenue in the coming year, though. You do the math! We’ll update soon on more information about ridership totals.
When it comes to money to pay for more streetcar on the Hill, the $24 million half-mile extension still needs another $10 million which would be raised with a local improvement district and taxing properties within it.
In the case of the Broadway extension, analysts from Valbridge Property Advisors recommended the LID extend 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.
A LID would require the approval of a certain percentage of property owners and the City Council.
SDOT also has about $14 million in grants for the project which will eventually expire but there’s still enough time to use them even with the pause in the project, SDOT says. “We’re not at risk of losing those funds,” Glass Hastings said.
Without a design change and without full funding, the chamber isn’t in support of the extension. The extension, which is estimated to serve 1,000 people daily, poses a “significant risk” to negatively impact the economy, Hansen said.
“At the end of the day, nobody’s convinced us it makes sense,” Hansen said.
Glass Hastings said there’s isn’t a specific date for when the department will begin to re-engage with businesses and residents about the project. From those discussions, SDOT hopes to find the best way to move forward and meet the needs of the neighborhood.
“It’s not in SDOT’s interest to push a project through that doesn’t have strong support,” Glass Hastings said.
When SDOT decides to re-engage the community in the project, Glass Hastings said the department wants to work with the chamber and the Capitol Hill Community Council to figure out how to analyze how the light rail and streetcar have impacted Broadway.
Until that happens, a construction timeline for the project is still to be determined.
Hansen thinks the city should instead focus on the Center City Connector, which would 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.
Not only does connecting the lines make more sense than extending it, the Broadway extension is “redundant” with light rail, Hansen said.
“We want the city to connect lines and give us time as a neighborhood to settle down after years and years of highly impactful construction,” Hansen said.
Even without more streetcar construction, Broadway is due for even more dump trucks and cranes in the neighborhood. Capitol Hill Station’s development of four seven-story buildings is currently planned to begin construction in spring of 2018.