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Mayor says First Hill streetcar means Seattle jobs — Construction starts in January

Inside the streetcar barn (Image: CHS)

As city leaders gathered to announce an international team to build the cars that will travel the route, planners tell CHS the work to build a streetcar line between the International District and Broadway via First Hill will begin with the New Year.

Seattle Department of Transportation planner Ethan Melone tells CHS that we’ll begin to see construction related to the new line come January:

Construction is expected to begin in January 2012. Initial work would begin on First Hill (between Madison and Boren); work on Capitol Hill would start later in the 1st or 2nd Quarter.  We are working on the detailed schedule with our contractor as part of final contract negotiations, and that should be available in December.

Meanwhile, at a press conference in the South Lake Union streetcar barn Wednesday, Mayor Mike McGinn announced that Czech Republic firm Inekon will partner with Seattle-based Pacifica to manufacture the six trams that will carry an estimated 6,000 people per day when the First Hill route becomes operational in late 2013. The six First Hill Streetcar vehicles will be manufactured in the Czech Republic but assembled, painted, tested, and maintained in Seattle helping to create 20 union jobs, according to a statement released by the mayor’s office.

The Inekon-Pacifica consortium will also bid on streetcar projects in other cities, McGinn said.

City Council president Richard Conlin noted that the partnership will also mean parts for cars on the South Lake Union line can be supplied from a local presence instead of shipped from Europe.

The $132 million project is being built by the City of Seattle but paid for by Sound Transit as part of an agreement forged to mitigate the decision to not build a light rail station in the First Hill area. The alignment is finalized but there is continued interest from the community in extending the line north on Broadway all the way to Roy instead of the currently planned terminus near Broadway and Denny and the future home of the light rail station. Earlier this month, we reported that the city had won a $900,000 grant to study connecting the South Lake Union and First Hill streetcar lines.

Here’s our full overview of the construction plan for the First Hill line and what to expect on Broadway when the tracks have been installed. There will be one big change for drivers — no more left turns off Broadway along the streetcar route.

The full announcement on the streetcar manufacturing partnership is below, but first a note from Council member Tom Rasmussen. Even the man Jean Godden said “doesn’t like rail” had something nice to say about the consortium:

“This is great news for our local economy and creates a foothold for a new industry based in Seattle,” said Councilmember Rasmussen. “Twenty jobs will be created through this agreement, all of which will be filled by members of the Aerospace Machinists union, Local 751.  “This consortium will be in place to compete for new streetcar projects now under way in Dallas, Charlotte, Cincinnati and Washington, DC.  I would like to see Seattle become the North American center of manufacturing of streetcars, electric trolley buses other high capacity public transit vehicles in the 21st Century.  I am hopeful that these 20 family wage jobs are just the beginning for the Inekon-Pacifica consortium.” 


Mayor Mike McGinn and Council President Richard Conlin, joined by labor and business representatives, today announced Inekon-Pacifica as the winning bidder to build six First Hill Streetcar vehicles. Inekon, based in the Czech Republic, is partnered with Pacifica, a Seattle-based manufacturer. The announcement, made at the Seattle Streetcar Maintenance Yard, highlighted investments in high capacity transit that are bringing, living wage manufacturing jobs to Seattle. The partnership will bring streetcar manufacturing jobs to Seattle and compete for other streetcar contracts around the country.

  “This investment in improved transit will produce family wage jobs and send money back into our local economy,” said Mayor Mike McGinn. “An expanded rail network will also support economic development in our neighborhoods and give people affordable transportation choices. I congratulate Inekon-Pacifica on winning the bid to construct the vehicles and thank our Office of Economic Development, Transportation Department, Finance and Administrative Services and my staff for helping making today’s announcement possible.”

 The City of Seattle is developing the First Hill Streetcar with funding from Sound Transit under an interlocal agreement that was established following the 2008 passage of the Sound Transit 2 ballot measure. The project will link First Hill to the regional Link light rail system via connections on Capitol Hill and in the International District.

 “Bringing this work home to Seattle is a big boost to our economy,” said Council President Richard Conlin, Chair of the Regional Development and Sustainability committee. “This is great synergy!  It advances our goals of getting more people to work by transit and putting more people to work in Seattle’s high-wage manufacturing sector.” 

Today’s announcement was also a significant step in building capacity for a new industry in Seattle. Inekon and Pacifica will be bidding on other streetcar projects around the country, and the city of Seattle’s contract for the First Hill Streetcar vehicles includes purchase options that can be used on expansions of the Seattle system, or transferred to other transit agencies that may need additional streetcar vehicles. An estimated 20 new high-wage union manufacturing jobs will result from this contract, with Pacifica’s facility scaling with other future successful bids. Streetcar maintenance will also be performed by Pacifica employees – guaranteeing long-term employment. 

Ing. Josef Husek, Director General of Inekon Group expressed his gratitude to the city of Seattle and the Seattle Department of Transportation. Ing. Husek said, “We are proud to work with you again and look forward to delivering our streetcars to the City of Seattle.” Ing. Husek also expressed his pride in partnering with local company Pacifica Marine for this contract. Bill Patz, Chief Executive Officer of Pacifica Marine, said, “Pacifica is thrilled to be entering this manufacturing agreement to provide Inekon’s outstanding streetcars to Seattle today and to other U.S. cities in the future.”

 The six First Hill Streetcar vehicles will be manufactured in the Czech Republic. They will then be assembled, painted, tested, and maintained in Seattle.

 The announcement follows recent developments to expand Seattle’s streetcar network. Mayor Mike McGinn announced last week that the Federal Transit Administration awarded Seattle a $900,000 grant to study a high capacity transit project, such as a rapid streetcar, through the heart of downtown Seattle. The federal grant is matched by $300,000 in SDOT funds, bringing the total to $1.2 million. The current Seattle Transit Master Plan shows that a rail system on this corridor could generate approximately 10,000 new transit riders in Seattle Center City by 2030. The mayor’s Proposed 2012 Budget also includes $1.5 million for further high capacity transit planning in line with the priorities of the City’s updated Transit Master Plan. That proposal is currently under consideration by the City Council.

 Background Pacifica is a specialty fabrication and refurbishment company in the mass transportation vehicle industry. The International Association of Machinist and Aerospace Workers started Pacifica to bring family wage jobs to its members in the State of Washington. The company is structured around the Association’s High Performance Work Organization program which is designed to have employees involved in the operation of the company from the top down. This company is unique because of its goal is to create family wage jobs for its workers, not profits for the corporation. All of the profits from this company will be used to start other projects to benefit workers and their families.

 The Inekon Group, of the Czech Republic, was established in 1990 as a private company focused on the export of rail vehicles and import of raw materials for the chemical industry. It has since developed into a commercial and production holding company focused on three areas: rail vehicles and railway tracks; chemical products and waste water treatment; and the export of investment units. The Inekon Group has a design studio for rail vehicles and a production site in Ostrava. Inekon also offers repairs and modernization for rail vehicles, and construction and renovations of railway track superstructures. The company was the provider of streetcars for the South Lake Union line of the Seattle Streetcar System. 

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25 thoughts on “Mayor says First Hill streetcar means Seattle jobs — Construction starts in January

  1. Yea! Jobs jobs jobs! Actually it seems to say above, 20 jobs for a mere $132 million! That would work out to, er, $7.6 million per job. So, I hope they pay well. But 20 jobs is a vast underestimate. There will also be probably like 20 more jobs for Streetcar Drivers (oh, but then again,you have to deduct the 20 jobs from reducing bus service nearby to make sure people do ride the streetcar). Oh, and what about the many jobs for the extra care at emergency rooms due to pedestrians and bicyclists stumbling and being injured in the rail grooves? Hmm, I guess there’s no plan to hire more ER personnel, actually, but probably longer lines. So, oops, I guess 20 jobs is about it. Wait– at least 10 supervisors at whatever agency is going to manage this right? And at least 10 consultants and support personnel to work on that $900,000 study to tell if we want to extend the streetcar another few blocks. Expect a boom in hiring managers and consultants, or at least well-connected consultants, anyway.

    Why a streetcar is superior to a bus, hasn’t yet been quite explained, except, you get to tear the street up when putting in a streetcar, and plus, those rails are something we can be proud of. Meanwhile, the estimate of 6000 people a day riding it — wow! I’m guessing, the 6000 estimate is based on the original estimated ridership of the SLUT (actual ridership isn’t the right figure because being so much lower than estimated, it couldn’t be right, could it?), and of course a big percentage increase for future growth since the SLUT went in, right?

    Well, at least we’re getting a vehicle here, as opposed to painting more bicycles on the street. Though painting trolleys on the street would be much less costly and probably pretty close to as effective in addressing transportation problems. And, if we hired artists to paint the trolleys (or the additional bicycle paintings if the higher car tabs pass) we could employ more then 20, and also get something worth looking at, anyway. Oh, I guess not, probably they’d hire the artist who’s going to put the big model airplane in front of the subway tunnel station on Broadway. We gotta have someone with a national reputation to do justice to our new world-class streetcar, right?

  2. I take it you don’t like streetcars. I do and think this will be a great transit addition to our city.

    By the way, exaggeration doesn’t help your arguments…the $900,000 grant is not to extend the streetcar “another few blocks,” it’s to plan a streetcar line through the center of the city, connecting the South Lake Union route with the First Hill route.

  3. Good for McGinn. Good for Seattle. Now, let’s ensure we get both the downtown line from the ID to SLU as well as the Bway extension from Denny to Aloha. Urbanization is good for the soul.

  4. The Broadway alignment has streetcars, cars, delivery trucks and buses all sharing the same lane. Cars will be waiting behind the streetcars when they stop. Streetcars will be waiting behind cars and trucks making right turns, or dropping off and picking up passengers, or parallel parking.

    But, hey, there’s going to be a new 10-foot wide bike-only lane so at least they won’t be delayed.

  5. Just because you type it, doesn’t make it true. Your ignorance on transit issues, particularly performance and ridership of streetcars relative to buses, does not make a particularly compelling basis for an “argument”. You’re resorting to a lot of the same baseless rhetoric that seems to be so prevalent in our country’s current political “debates” — namely, employ scare tactics, oversimplify, ignore anything that may undermine or counter your position, rinse and repeat…

    I for one whole-heartedly support the streetcar and sincerely hope our city manages to continue the forward momentum needed to build a streetcar network so the full benefit of the investment can be had.

  6. What is the benefit of a street car over a bus? I would love some honest feedback. It seems like this would get stuck in lights and traffic the same way a bus does. Plus it requires a massive spending in infrastructure that is totally permanent, unlike buses that can easily be rerouted to address changes in population growth, emergencies, etc..

    Would love some feedback and opinions.


  7. $132 Million for 20 jobs. Wow.

    By contrast, let’s say that a Metro driver makes $75K. Each driver gets a bus that costs, let’s say $400K. Add in gas and maintenance. I think you can move a lot more people for $132 million other ways.

    This is beyond a bad idea. It’s a boondoggle, hatched by a mayor with absolutely, positively no clue about mobility or the value of other people’s time. Get a clue Mr. McGinn. Drop this bad idea and come up with a better one. It shouldn’t be that hard, considering this is as bad as I have ever seen from an elected official talking with a straight face about it.

  8. Seriously? The mayor is rationalizing a $132million transportation project with the lure and promise of 20 jobs? I would prefer the funds be used to expand the SLUT or extend the light rail or to put more buses, or,.. well just about anything else that would actually be cost effective and/or CONNECT our transit system to each other. I have to agree that rather than alleviate congestion and make our streets safer for pedestrian and bikers, it would have the opposite effect. Maybe after we build a better integrated system we could add random street cars ’cause then we would actually have someplace to connect them to. I guess I am missing something, so I too would welcome arguments (mathematical stances not just emotional) on why this is a better option than buses or spending the money elsewhere. Why build our mass transit on fractured unrelated systems? Thanks.

  9. No, not $132MM for 20 jobs. It’s $132MM for s streetcar and infrastructure improvements including a cycle track, that happens to directly generate 20 jobs. Devising an overly simplistic equation that analyzes the expenditures associated with this project with the number of jobs created when the project is about transit, not job creation is plain out and out idiotic. It’s beyond idiotic. It’s evidence of a lack of thought, trolling, or an attempt to manipulate public opinion. And regarding the money that’s paying for the project–it’s Sound Transit, not City of Seattle.

    And it’s money paying for the deletion of the First Hill station from the Light Rail, which would have cost something like 8 times what this streetcar costs. If you really want to get upset about something, get upset about First Hill losing its station and getting the streetcar as a consolation. Or get upset about the lack of connection between this street car line and the SLUT. Or that this streetcar stops in the middle of Broadway or can’t make it all the way through Pioneer Sq. as they originally planned. So get upset,you have the right, but do it about something factually based.

  10. This is what blows my mind:
    “The six First Hill Streetcar vehicles will be manufactured in the Czech Republic.”
    Really? No one in Washington (or the US for that matter) can manufacture these streetcar vehicles? How much is being paid for the labor in the Czech Republic? Maybe there are union folks who can build these cars? C’mon people…stop patting yourself on the back while you pay cheap labor to do work that people here are dying to do.

  11. This city is looking more and more like a sad carnival of uncoordinated transit companies siphoning funding from each other and the riders are the one that will be screwed.

    Just make bus lanes. But i guess keeping it that simple doesn’t give you shiny toys to stand in front of and draw the gentrification money to the hood.

  12. The only US manufacturer is United Streetcar, which is building trams under license of Czech manufacturer Škoda. So far, they have built 1 (one) streetcar.

    The aim of this partnership between Inekon and Pacifica is to bring the know-how to Seattle, so that later Pacifica can be manufacturing the streetcars in USA under Inekon’s license.

    There were some 25.000 streetcars manufactured in the Czech Republic in past 60 years, while in US the streetcar networks were disassembled. The Czech design was gradually evolving over this time. Meanwhile, United Streetcar needed a year to build a tram which is now considered obsolete in Europe. US manufacturers simply need time & experience to become competitive.

  13. Yes, Sound Transit is paying for the First Hill streetcar (as part of a mitigation because they cancelled the inital plan to have a light rail stop on First Hill) but presumably any more streetcar routes, such as linking the First Hill and South Lake Union routes, would need to be paid for by the City.

    McGinn can’t take any credit for the First Hill streetcar…it was planned when Nickels was mayor, and not funded by the City.