When we first reported the Seattle City Council’s decision that included support for a study of an extension to north Broadway as part of its streetcar resolution, we noted Publicola’s documentation of the challenges the city faced in convincing Sound Transit to pony up the cash to make it happen. This week, Publicola reported on a letter sent by the City Council to Sound Transit CEO Joni Earl. Below is a copy of the letter obtained by CHS from City Council staff.
While Council President Richard Conlin’s office has not yet replied to our request for background on the letter, a Council staffer did tell us that the memo is a response to buzz around City Hall that Sound Transit is preparing to push back on spending its budget to study extending the streetcar to Aloha.
Sound Transit did get back to us, however, and the message was even more clear: a Sound Transit-backed effort to extend the streetcar to north Broadway faces, at best, an uphill battle.
“… the ST2 plan stipulates that scope can only be added to projects if the agency has surplus revenues and everything else in the ST2 plan has been built as promised to voters. Given where we are today with revenues, it’s hard to see us having a surplus at the end of the program,” Sound Transit spokesperson Bruce Gray wrote in an e-mail to CHS.
In the mail, Gray described the streetcar extension “as a City of Seattle project.”
Voters approved the Sound Transit 2 ballot measure in 2008 voting for an increase in sales tax to power a new round of transit projects in the region. Sound Transit claims the program is facing an approximately 20% shortfall due to the economic slowdown.
The Capitol Hill Community Council’s Complete Streetcar campaign raised enthusiasm and lobbied Seattle Department of Transportation planners to include a study of a north Broadway extension in the plan sent to the City Council.
SDOT representatives declined to comment on the City Council letter.
Here’s the letter and the posturing from the other side of the table. Stay tuned.
We are writing to affirm the Seattle City Council’s interest in pursuing a request to the Sound Transit Board to use anticipated excess funds from the First Hill Streetcar project for work associated with extending the planned route north ofBroadway and Denny. This request is consistent with the agreement approved by both parties in late 2009, the Funding and
Cooperative Agreement between the Central Puget Sound RegionalTransit Authority and the City of Seattle for the Implementation of the FirstHill Streetcar Connector Project.
Currently, City transportation staff estimate Seattle can build the Council-approved First Hill Streetcar route for $125.4 million, which includes design and construction contingencies. Given this, the City is confident that “excess” funds will be available from the $132.8 million in ST2 capital funds budgeted for the First Hill Streetcar. At this stage, the City is only seeking $750,000 ofthe $7.4 million in anticipated excess funds for conceptual engineering and environmental review associated with extending the route. This will still leave a $6.7 million “cushion” that could be tapped in the event the Council-approved route between Pioneer Square and Broadway and Denny incurs unanticipated costs. (Should the City decide to proceed with extending the First Hill Streetcar route north of Broadway and Denny, the Council anticipates a follow-up request to the Sound Transit Board to use any remaining First Hill Streetcar project funds, up to $132.8 million, to help pay for the extension. The City recognizes it is responsible for securing any other funds needed beyond the $132.8 million allocated in ST2 for the First Hill Streetcar).
Until the City completes State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) requirements for the First Hill Streetcar, and then obtains final project approval from the Sound Transit Board, the Funding and Cooperative Agreement limits Seattle expenditures to $5.4 million. City transportation staff anticipates SEPA review will be completed in late August and the City will likely seek Sound Transit Board approval for the final project in September. At the same time, Seattle would also like to obtain the Board’s approval to use $750,000 for conceptual engineering and environmental review associated with extending the route north ofBroadway and Denny. In anticipation of this timeline, City Council staffwill work with Councilmember Conlin to prepare the appropriate motions for the Sound Transit Board’s consideration. To that end, we hope that Sound Transit staff will work cooperatively with our staff, Christa Valles, to ensure the appropriate documents are prepared and processes are followed to bring this issue before the Sound Transit Board in a timely manner.