County cancels next round of Metro cuts

1507581_690284577725465_9131719805826345159_nIn the midst of the first Monday commutes with its latest rounds of Metro service cutbacks executed, the King County Council announced it won’t have to slice service again in February. The move preserves buses and frequency for a handful of lines including several Seattle routes — no matter how the city votes on a proposed transit district this fall.

In November, Seattle voters will consider a plan to raise sales taxes by .1% and add a $60 vehicle licensing fee to allow the city to pay for some of its own Metro service. The proposal was initially positioned as a way for Seattle to stave off any new cuts Metro threw at it.  “Supporters will now tout the measure as a way to add transit in the nation’s fastest growing city,” the Seattle Times now authoritatively reports.

County officials say the February cuts won’t be necessary after continued optimization at Metro and thanks to increased sales-tax income. They also added they can’t promise there won’t be additional cuts in the future.

Sound Transit contractor that dug twin light rail tunnels beneath Capitol Hill hit with racial discrimination lawsuit

Black workers who say they were demeaned and fired because of their race are suing the Sound Transit contractor responsible for digging the twin tunnels between Montlake and Broadway for the U-Link light rail extension beneath Capitol Hill.

KPLU reports:

A group of African American laborers who worked on the Sound Transit Link Light Rail project at Husky Stadium are suing, seeking class action status in federal court.

The men, four of whom appeared at a press conference in Seattle, say they were demeaned and fired because of their race. Continue reading

First Hill Streetcar delayed until 2015: New plan would move more rider revenue to Seattle


For a briefing to the City Council Tuesday morning, transportation planners have unveiled a proposal to change the agreement between Seattle and Sound Transit so that City Hall will be in position to see increased revenue if the First Hill Streetcar ridership numbers are strong.

Planners also revealed that CHS’s November forecast for the start of operations of the First Hill line between Pioneer Square and Broadway is likely too ambitious.

“Construction of the Project is nearing completion,” the planners write. “Although the start date of passenger service is uncertain due to delay in delivery of the streetcars, service could begin as early as the first quarter of 2015.”

UPDATE: SDOT planner Ethan Melone told the council committee that streetcar manufacturing “setbacks” have lead to the uncertainty about when the First Hill line can start service. In February, CHS reported about fire testing issues causing problems with the manufacturing schedule. Council 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 line and the manufacturing problems. The council member asked for a more complete update on the manufacturing problems in the next quarterly report due at the end of this month.

UPDATE: Following our report on the morning briefing, SDOT issued a statement on the delay.

“The schedule for streetcar delivery and service will continue to have some uncertainty until mid-November when more is known about testing results, supply chain issues and the pace of local production,” the SDOT statement reads.

SDOT says “several” of the streetcar vehicles are “near completion” and are expected to be delivered in December with “the entire fleet expected to be ready for operation in early 2015.”

The full statement is below:

If you have visited Capitol Hill or the International District lately, you have likely seen the finished construction work for the new First Hill Streetcar line. New track, electrical lines, traffic signals and sidewalk abound thanks to the project. But one critical component is missing: the streetcar manufacturer is behind schedule in delivering the line’s streetcars.

Continue reading

First Hill Streetcar ready for November rides?


We don’t yet know exactly when the first First Hill Streetcar will travel Broadway. But we’re getting there. This week, a Seattle Department of Transportation official is visiting with the Czech manufacturer of the streetcars that will serve the First Hill line. Following that status check, SDOT officials should have a better idea of when service will begin.

UPDATE: Bad news! SDOT says the streetcar won’t run on Broadway until 2015 due to manufacturing problems.

Earlier this year, CHS reported on an issue with fire testing that caused delays in manufacturing the six streetcars ordered by SDOT for the line. Czech Republic firm Inekon partnered with Seattle-based Pacifica to build the trams that were to be manufactured in the Czech Republic but assembled, painted, tested, and maintained in Seattle. Initially due to arrive from the manufacturer by April, CHS was told SDOT expected the streetcars to be delivered between June and October. SDOT was evaluating options including “ramping up service as vehicles are delivered, or beginning service after all six vehicles have been delivered.” Continue reading

Montlake, here are the plans for your 520 ‘short lid,’ new Portage Bay Bridge

"The revised Montlake Lid design proposes a landbridge connection across SR 520," WSDOT says.

“The revised Montlake Lid design proposes a landbridge connection across SR 520,” WSDOT says.

It’s all 520 to you and me but WSDOT has tackled the replacement of the highway’s path from I-5 and Montlake across Lake Washington to the Eastside in segments as it coordinates construction schedules with Olympia’s wrangling over transportation budgets. Thursday, neighbors in Montlake will get their first public views of the latest plans for the as-of-yet unfunded “new Portage Bay Bridge between I-5 and Montlake, a highway overpass lid in Montlake, and enhanced highway-corridor connections to neighborhoods and local shared-use paths for bicyclists and pedestrians.”

20140905-004403-2643287Community site Montlake.net is watching:

WSDOT is coming to the neighborhood on Thursday, September 11th with new plans for a shorter Montlake Lid — and high hopes of getting enough state funding next year to finish the SR-520 Replacement project through Seattle. Since the last design update in 2012, WSDOT has partnered with the City of Seattle to respond to critical public feedback asking for better pedestrian and bicycle access.

Neighbors will be particularly interested in changes being discussed to a planned lid covering the highway:

Previous plans from 2012 call for a 1400-foot-long landscaped lid over the future 520 from Montlake Blvd to Montlake’s eastern shoreline. This new plan calls for a much shorter 800-foot-long lid from a wee bit west of Montlake Blvd to 24th Ave East (the ex-MOHAI overpass). Goodbye eastern lid.

The plans will also include concepts for a bicycle-and-pedestrian-only bascule bridge over the Montlake Cut.

After community feedback in previous outreach sessions, WSDOT planners have also incorporated a “multi-use” trail for bikers and pedestrians as part of the proposed new Portage Bay Bridge portion of the 520 replacement.

Community organizers are asking for more support Thursday night:

Community meeting this Thu – 520 plans. Make your voice heard!

Open House about the new 520 plans Thursday Sept. 11 at Montlake Community Center, from 4:30 to 7 pm. State Department of Transportation will present its new plans for pedestrian and bicycle access, and traffic mitigation – these will have a big effect on community quality throughout Capitol Hill, Montlake, Madrona and Madison neighborhoods. WSDOT staff, consultants, key SDOT and DPD staff and mayor office representatives as well as council members will be there. They need to hear a full range of diverse opinions before the proposal makes it way to Olympia.

"A cable stay bridge is one of two bridge types under consideration" for Portage Bay, according to WSDOT

“A cable stay bridge is one of two bridge types under consideration” for Portage Bay, according to WSDOT

The replacement projects are part of a massive overhaul of the 520 floating bridge. Construction of the Eastside elements is nearing completion as the floating bridge work continues. In March, CHS reported on the start of work on the so-called West Approach Bridge North section of the bridge. The $300 million federally funded westbound section will have three lanes and include a pedestrian and bike path that will eventually connect to a path all the way across Lake Washington. The eastbound section — a south bridge — is part of more than a billion dollars in 520 replacement projects yet to be funded.

With eye on 2016 Capitol Hill light rail, plans readied to integrate Metro, Sound Transit service — UPDATE

Escalators leading up to mezzanine level of the UW light rail station (Image: CHS)

Escalators leading up to mezzanine level of the UW light rail station (Image: CHS)

King County Executive Dow Constantine will be at the University of Washington light rail station construction site Wednesday afternoon to announce the “initial results” of planning “to integrate services provided by the region’s two largest transit agencies” — King County’s Metro and Sound Transit.

“It is essential for transit agencies with overlapping jurisdictions to fully integrate their services, and provide them to the public as efficiently as possible,” Constantine said in a statement on the planning earlier this summer following his executive order forcing the process. “Long term, our transportation future requires both adequate revenue and continuous innovation to expand service. This initiative advances the innovation half of that equation.”

UPDATE: The release plan includes possible proposals to revise Metro Route 8 and create or revise Capitol Hill routes to better connect the Broadway light rail station to South Lake Union and First Hill. More details below. Continue reading

Sound Transit issues clarifications for Capitol Hill Station development proposals as cost concerns mount

Lots of concrete got pumped in to help complete Capitol Hill Station this spring and summer. Lots of money will need to be pumped in to complete the "transit oriented development" around the station (Image: Sound Transit)

Lots of concrete got pumped in to help complete Capitol Hill Station this spring and summer. Lots of money will need to be pumped in to complete the “transit oriented development” around the station (Image: Sound Transit)

As the projected start date for construction of the apartment complexes and businesses that will populate the area surrounding the Capitol Hill light rail station approaches in coming years, Sound Transit has released clarifications of many of the rules governing how the short-list of potential developers will outline project proposals for the developments. According to Cathy Hillenbrand of the Capitol Hill Champion community group, Sound Transit has provided new information about how the proposals will be graded and selected as well as aspects of the design process.

“What I’ve been hearing is that the developers will be having to spend a couple hundred thousand dollars if not more just to complete these proposals just because of the level of design-detail Sound Transit wants,” said Hillenbrand. “So if you’re one of the six teams competing for Site A, that’s not a great percentage of chance for winning, so are you going to lay out hundreds of thousands of dollars for that?”CHStation-TOD-area-600x467-1 Continue reading

Extended First Hill Streetcar, bikeway will (probably) terminate at Roy in 2017, funding still unresolved

(Image: SDOT)

(Image: SDOT)

Screen Shot 2014-08-19 at 4.18.38 PMFor years, maps of the First Hill Streetcar on Broadway have shown a dotted line extending north of E Denny Way to indicate the possible addition of two or three more stops to the route. The city is now ready to fill-in that line, and end it at Broadway and Roy.

Officials at the Seattle Department of Transportation say they have settled on a $25 million extension of the streetcar with a stop at Broadway and Harrison and a terminus at Broadway and Roy — two stops bewilderingly known as the Broadway Streetcar. The city had been considering an additional third stop at 10th and Prospect, but officials said the estimated $12 million price tag outweighed the benefits of extending the line near Volunteer Park.

“In some respects, the writing was on the wall. When we came back with the gross cost estimates, it was a lot,” said SDOT spokesperson Art Brochet.

The First Hill Street car is expected to open in November, running from Pioneer Square to a temporary Capitol Hill terminus at E Denny Way. 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.

Planning for the half-mile, two-stop extension is now 30% complete. Brochet said construction of the two stops could begin in 2016 with an opening in 2017. Continue reading

Capitol Hill Station’s crane ready to depart Broadway’s skyline after 3 1/2 years

Capitol Hill Station's shell now rises above the Broadway construction walls. Time to say goodbye to the crane. (Image: CHS)

Capitol Hill Station’s shell now rises above the Broadway construction walls. Time to say goodbye to the crane. (Image: CHS)

Construction signs warned the Hill to be ready for a long haul back in December 2009 (Image: CHS)

Construction signs warned the Hill to be ready for a long haul back in December 2009 (Image: CHS)

A part of the neighborhood skyline for nearly 1,300 days is slated to wave its 250-foot arm goodbye to Capitol Hill this month. The giant crane purchased by Sound Transit contractors that has helped build Capitol Hill Station and the U-Link light rail tunnels beneath Capitol Hill will be taken down, disassembled, and transported north to help build a new station in Roosevelt.

Sound Transit says it will require approximately 20 trucks to cart the giant crane. More information about the crane’s August removal will be announced soon. The Krøll 1800 (Capitol Hill’s is the metric model) was set up with its enormous 250-foot jib about 100 feet off the ground. The model can be as tall as 200 feet. It can lift more than 30,000 pounds at full extension and more than 130,000 when operating at a shorter radius, according to the manufacturer. Continue reading

Say goodbye to the 47 as Murray’s Metro funding plan heads to November ballot

The-47-on-Bellevue-600x397The Seattle City Council has unanimously approved sending a measure to the November ballot to save King County’s Metro bus service, but it will be too little too late for Capitol Hill’s Route 47. The $45 million plan (PDF) would prevent several rounds of Metro cuts, but not before the 47 and several other lines are slashed in the first round of service reductions scheduled for September.

The measure, first proposed by Mayor Ed Murray in May, is basically a local version of the county-wide Proposition 1 which failed to pass in April. The Seattle plan would raise sales taxes by .1% and add a $60 vehicle licensing fee in the city.

The council rejected an amendment proposed by council members Kshama Sawant and Nick Licata that may have saved the 47 by replacing the sales tax increase with an annual $18 employee head count tax and increasing the tax paid by commercial parking lot operators from 12.5% to 17.5%. Those revenue streams could have been enacted by council before the September cuts took place.

On the plus side, Murray’s plan has a solid chance of passing. Over 66% of Seattle voters approved Prop. 1 and nearly 80% of voters in Capitol Hill’s 43rd legislative district approved the measure, which included road funding that the current plan leaves out.

After Eastside and rural King County voters torpedoed Prop. 1, CHS’s Bus Stop said this about the 47′s deep history in the neighborhood:

The 47 is Seattle’s shortest trolley bus line, connecting downtown with one of the densest census tracts on the west coast of the US. For 105 years, a bus or streetcar has come up the Hill from downtown, dropped passengers off on Summit Avenue as it headed north, turned around once it hits Lakeview Boulevard, and then headed back down Bellevue Avenue. Its frequency may have gone up or down as the years elapsed, and the 13 streetcar turned into the 14 bus to Mount Baker, which was eventually decoupled to form the downtown-only 47. But this bus has always been here. That looks about to change.

Another reason to stay away from Bellevue

You can go to the Eastside if you like. You just might not make it back. A week of work on I-90 is expected to tangle traffic around the area as commuters are forced to find alternate routes to avoid planned lane closures. Here’s the word from SDOT on the start of things Friday night and through the weekend:

Traffic on freeways and major arterials into the city will be complicated by construction on WSDOT’s Interstate 90 – only one westbound lane of I-90 will remain open between Bellevue and Mercer Island. There could be significant backups on alternate routes depending on how many drivers venture forth from the east side into downtown Seattle. For more information, see WSDOT’s website, http://tinyurl.com/l53s9cs.

Once the work week begins, CHS predict tie-ups in Capitol Hill chokepoints where coffee, wi-fi, and electrical outlets mix.

Bus Stop | The 2

14569185692_30304b38c4_zSome Seattle bus routes are ubiquitous, and some are iconic. The 2 falls into the latter category. Serving Queen Anne, Belltown, Downtown, First Hill, Capitol Hill, the Central District, and Madrona, the 2 is one of Metro’s legacy routes that Seattle could not function without. It only crosses the borders of Capitol Hill for a short stretch of its huge domain, but it makes a big impact on the lives of Hill residents.

On a recent Thursday evening, I met Marilyn waiting for the 2 at Seneca and Harvard Avenue. When I told her I was writing about the bus line, she told me “I love the 2…it’s always on time.” She glanced up the street at the almost-due bus, adding, “Almost always.” Continue reading

First Hill streetcar could mean new connections for International District, Pioneer Square, Capitol Hill

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Dragon Fest (Image: Chinatown/ID BIA)

In cities much larger than our northwestern outpost, subways represent more than just a transportation option, they project possibilities. Neighborhoods that would otherwise be off the radar for a happy hour drink or street fair become a doable “few stops away.”

The First Hill Streetcar, slated to open by the end of this year, will bring that expanded state-of-mind to Capitol Hill as the new transit line adds direct connections to Chinatown/International District and Pioneer Square.

Don Blakeney, executive director of the Chinatown/International District BIA, said restaurant owners in his neck of the woods are eagerly awaiting streetcars full of Capitol Hill foodies to descend on the neighborhood.

“Capitol Hill has a really good restaurant scene, but there are 120 restaurants in Chinatown/ID,” he said. “I think people will wake up in the morning and think ‘hey, I can go have dim sum.’” Continue reading