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City Council streetcar briefing: Could Feds pay for Aloha extension?

The Seattle City Council’s transportation committee heard an update Tuesday from department of transportation planners on the streetcar that will connect to the Broadway light rail station and circulate riders from the International District, to the edges of First Hill, the Central District and Capitol Hill. The committee also got an earful from the Capitol Hill Community Council who had four speakers participate in the public comments portion of the meeting to make the case for an extension of the streetcar route to Aloha and designing the project as a reinvention of Capitol Hill street-use.

We’ve included links to individual sections of Tuesday’s meeting — thanks to the Community Council for the handy YouTube work. You can view the full Seattle Channel broadcast here.

No major new announcements or news around the alignments but the most interesting takeaways were the strong presence of the Community Council, the amount of interest the councilmembers showed in the Aloha option and some of the questions councilmembers had ranging from population of First Hill to cost overruns (city is on the hook) to how an Aloha extension might be paid for.

On that note, as the interpretation of the agreement between Sound Transit and the city for the construction of the streetcar outlines a route that ends at the future light rail station at Broadway and John, Sound Transit is not paying for an extension of the route up Broadway to Aloha. That leaves the city to come up with a plan to pay for the stretch itself. Or find a source of funding. Transportation committee head Tom Rasmussen brought an interesting option to the discussion on Tuesday. Federal grant opportunity FTA-2010-001-TPE is a Department of Transportation program to make $130 million available to “Urban Circulator Systems.” The good news is this grant exists and that, hey, somebody with the city is thinking about it. The bad news? Applications are due February 10th and this is the first we’ve heard of it. We’ll follow up with SDOT and Rasmussen to find out what the possibilities are that this grant will solve the Aloha question.

Here are the clips from the meeting:

* public comment 1/6:  Jim Erickson

   * public comment 2/6:  Robert Shireman

   * public comment 3/6:  Josh Mahar

   * public comment 4/6:  Bob Corwin

   * public comment 5/6:  Alex Broner

   * public comment 6/6:  George Bakan

   * streetcar update (1/6):  Introduction, background, by Christa Valles (Council Central Staff)

   * streetcar update (2/6):  Presentation by Ethan Malone (SDOT): impetus for this line, interlocal agreement, proposed project schedule, questions about: operating funding from Sound Transit, start and end locations, adjusting Sound Transit funding amount for inflation

   * streetcar update (3/6):  Presentation: alignment: Chinatown / International District core

   * streetcar update (4/6):  Presentation: alignment: First Hill and Capitol Hill, questions about commuters’ use of the line, contribution to greater usage of light rail, effect on Metro bus routes, distance from King St. station to hospitals

   * streetcar update (5/6):  Presentation: alignment evaluation criteria, Q&A: accessibility, extending to Aloha

   * streetcar update (6/6):  more Q&A: tie-in to larger transportation network, extension to Aloha, precedent for streetcar couplets and loops separated by multiple blocks, possibility of saving money/time by having Council eliminate some alignment options soon, starting planning Community Council’s proposed bicycle track now

Beyond the transportation committee meeting, one extra push for the Community Council’s memorandum on the streetcar also came this week from the Cal Anderson Park Alliance. CAPA sent the following note to CHS outlining their support for the Community Council’s positions on a Broadway alignment that does *not* circle the park:

The Cal Anderson Park Alliance (CAPA) endorses the Capitol Hill Community Council (CHCC) Streetcar Plan for the northern segment of the First Hill streetcar (attached).  

Of  all the plans proposed to date, we think that the CHCC plan and its three key recommendations provide the best balance of transportation and community needs in this most densely populated area of Seattle. Further, we believe it is the plan that best addresses the access, safety and pedestrian elements at Cal Anderson Park.

We look forward to working further with the community and the city to refine these transportation solutions as they affect the Capitol Hill neighborhood and Cal Anderson Park.

All tracks lead to another set of community meetings coming up in February. Looks like SDOT is planning to hold the meetings in ‘open house’ format again which is a good way for lots of 1:1 discussion opportunities but also makes it difficult to pin anybody down on anything. Given how much of the streetcar plan is still up in the air, avoiding a ‘pin’ might not be a bad idea.

Second Round of Community Meetings for First Hill Streetcar Line
Three community open houses to be held in February

SEATTLE – The Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) will hold three community open houses in February to share new information and receive comments about alignment options for the First Hill Streetcar line. The new line will connect light rail stations and several Seattle neighborhoods including the Chinatown/International District, Pioneer Square, Yesler Terrace, First Hill and Capitol Hill.

The city has combined input from hundreds of comments about alternate routes with other factors including bicycle routes, streetcar ridership and economic development potential, possible utility conflicts, travel times, capital and operating costs, traffic and parking revisions, and urban design opportunities. Information based on these criteria will be shared at the meetings.

These community meetings are part of the public dialog that will continue over the next three months, leading to a decision by Mayor Mike McGinn and the Seattle City Council on a route for the new line. Construction is slated to begin in 2011 and the streetcar would begin operating in 2013 with Sound Transit funds previously approved by voters.

The open houses will be held:

•         Tuesday, February 9, 4:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m., Union Station (401 S Jackson Street)

•         Thursday, February 11, 11:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m., Seattle First Baptist Church (1111 Harvard Avenue)

•         Thursday, February 11, 4:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m., Seattle First Baptist Church (1111 Harvard Avenue)

Community members may request an interpreter for any of these meetings by contacting Kate Miller at 206.838.9224 or [email protected] at least five working days prior to the event.

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