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After the ceremony, what to expect on Broadway during streetcar construction

Following a lunch hour groundbreaking ceremony at a midway point of the 2.5 mile route, work to build Seattle’s second 21st century streetcar line is beginning with the first pavement being cracked on Capitol Hill.

“That’s what’s so great about today’s streetcar announcement is we’re going to do a better job of connecting Seattle’s neighborhoods to each other and to the regional light rail system,” Mayor Mike McGinn said to start the groundbreaking ceremony held at the intersection of Boylston and Broadway near the future Marion stop of the streetcar line.

“The First Hill streetcar will not only provide better connections between First Hill and other parts of the Sound Transit and Metro Transit systems,” said King County Executive Dow Constantine, “it will also influence and guide the development of our neighborhoods.”

Former mayor Greg Nickels, City Council members Tom Rasmussen and Sally Clark were on hand for the groundbreaking as were state leaders Jim McDermott and Ed Murray and the county council’s Larry Phillips who talked about the tough decision not to go forward with a light rail station that had been planned to serve First Hill.

With a target to be operational by early 2014 and planners expecting some 6,000 people per day to use the line, the first work on the $134 million route that will connect Pioneer Square, the International District and Capitol Hill via First Hill includes moving utilities around Broadway in preparation for the start of track laying later this summer.

The first significant project is planned to start this weekend with work to remove the median from Broadway in front of Seattle Central.

Thanks to Lookin4TallGuys for more pictures from the ceremony.

The work will bring a few hassles to people trying to use the streets and sidewalks along the route at times. Here’s what SDOT says to expect. CHS will monitor construction updates and try to bring the most significant disruptions to light as they come.

Lane restrictions and pedestrian detours– Drivers should expect lane closures on weekdays and full intersection closures on weekends. 

Bicyclist and pedestrian detours –  access to businesses and residences will be maintained, however, during certain times crosswalks and/or sidewalks will be closed.  Near work zones there will be times when bicyclist will be required to merge with traffic or directed to utilize alternate routes.

Parking and loading restrictions- Long-term parking and loading zone restrictions will be required in and around the work site(s).  There will also be short-term driveway closures along the primary construction streets.  Advance notice will be provided for any upcoming driveway restrictions.

Bus stop closures and closures – Bus service will be maintained within the project area.  During certain times specific bus stops will be closed or relocated.  During the weekend when intersections are closured if it is not possible to flag them through work zones buses will be detoured.  King County Metro will provide advance notice to riders of any bus stop relocations or closures.

Short-term utility interruptions– Some buildings adjacent to the streetcar route can expect up to three short-term interruptions to their water service during construction in locations where water lines are being replaced. SPU will provide formal notification to customers and coordinate the best time for outages with affected residents, businesses, and institutions. 

Additional noise, dust and truck activity

You can also follow the project on Facebook or via Twitter.

The SDOT construction page says to expect “substantial” work to be done early in the morning, at night and on the weekends and that the city “has placed a number of conditions on the contractor that are intended to reduce the overall impacts of the construction to surrounding businesses and residences.”

Biking along Broadway could be especially precarious — for a few years. SDOT is recommending 12th Ave as an alternate route.

When completed, the First Hill streetcar line will have four stops in our neck of the woods — Broadway at Terrace, Broadway at Marion, Broadway at E Pike and the currently planned final stop, Broadway at Denny. There are no details yet on planned fares but the South Lake Union line is now charging $2.50 and continues to increase ridership with more than 500,00 using that line in 2011, according to the city.

Most of the funding for the streetcar line is being provided by Sound Transit  in lieu of a First Hill-area station that could not be built as part of the light rail line. This recent report from the Seattle Times has more on the situation that lead to the current plan. Sound Transit will provide $120 million to fund construction of the line which the city will manage. Any construction overruns will be the responsibility of the city. Sound Transit will also provide $5.2 million annually for the city to operate the line. General contractor on the project Stacy and Witbeck says the project will entail 70 full-time jobs during the construction phases.

Changes to Broadway will include more than just the new tracks and trains. The line will also transform Broadway into a more pedestrian and bike friendly environment with the introduction of a bikeway, more pedestrian features and the elimination of many of Broadway’s left-hand turn opportunities.

in the meantime, residents, workers and merchants — and events — will have to live through some of the inconveniences of a major infrastructure project. Many of them have been living in the midst of heavy construction for years starting with the 2007 demolition of buildings along Broadway for the light rail site. Muck-hauling trucks are still plying Capitol Hill streets as the final tunneling is completed by the boring machine making its way up the Hill for one last run from downtown to Broadway and Denny. Tunneling will be complete bu things will get even busier in 2013 as construction of the Broadway light rail station and accompanying developments will begin.

(Images: CHS)

City planners are also continuing to work on financing a north extension to continue the streetcar line past its currently planned terminus at Denny Way all the way to Aloha. Officials have said the city is looking at  federal funding opportunities for the $30 million extension. A plan to pay for initial planning of the extension is now in motion:

Now we are turning our focus to extending the line north on Broadway through the heart of the commercial district. This summer, the City will use a mixture of $50,000 in federal funds and $450,000 in local funds to begin environmental review on the north Broadway extension. That’s the first step toward competing for the federal funds we’ll need to build it.

We are also applying for regional funds to pay for engineering and final design. With the help of Councilmembers Jean Godden and Mike O’Brien, the streetcar extension was selected as one of twelve projects that the Puget Sound Regional Council is considering funding. If successful, the PSRC funds can help pay for the $2.5 million cost of the engineering and final design in 2013.

The construction cost for the extension is estimated at $22 million. We still have a lot of work to do in order to secure the local funding and federal grants we’ll need to pay for construction, but we’ve made a good start by identifying funds to begin the environmental review process. I want to thank Councilmember Tom Rasmussen for his longstanding support for this project and helping get it closer to reality.


When service begins in 2014, it will mark the return of streetcars to Capitol Hill after a 70-some-year absence.

More on the First Hill Streetcar

timeline, originally uploaded by jseattle.
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22 thoughts on “After the ceremony, what to expect on Broadway during streetcar construction

  1. Another toy train for white people to get excited about.

    Meanwhile the roads of full of potholes, poorly marked, ill-lit, etc, etc.

  2. Another train system on an already comically fragmented network.

    That’s 5 different choo choos that don’t connect with one another, for those of you scoring at home. Monorail, light rail, Sounder, Slut, and now the first hill street car.

    I don’t have a joke for this.

  3. You are wrong. The lightrail, Sounder, and street car will all meet up at Union station. The lightrail and street car also will meet up at Broadway and Denny. The monorail and the SLUT meet up half a block from each other at their terminus at Westlake, which is also half a block from the lightrail in the tunnel under Westlake.

  4. They do not meet up on Union Station. The Sounder Commuter Rail is at King Street Station across the street. Link Light Rail is at Union Tunnel Station and the new First Hill light rail departs at the surface on South Jackson Street. Even as the Broadway station is completed, none of these light rail tracks intersect with each other.

    Monorail doesnt count (wont accept ORCA cards) and is in such disarray that only a tourist would use it.

  5. Did voters approve of the bike lanes when they voted in favor of a region wide light rail system? Or did the city contribute their own money for the bike lanes?

  6. I’m not white and excited about it. But I understand what you’re saying. They need to connect the streetcars, but I guess that’s a future plan. Better yet, they should have found a way to fund and engineer a lightrail station. Stupid planning. You have not seen pot holes until you’ve been in a southern state. Seattle is a piece of cake.

  7. Yup. Trying to think of another city with such a silly system. BART, MARTA, MAX, MBTA, DC Metro, etc. all one system over a city or region. 5 differing train sets all disconnected from the others is painfully stupid and outrageously inefficient. Welcome to Seattle!

    But hey! Bike lanes!!!!!

  8. Wrong – those other cities have multiple transit systems too. SF doesn’t just have BART; it also has muni light rail, streetcars, cable cars, and caltrain. This is normal. Any big city has multiple types of transit, just like it has multiple types of streets (neighborhood streets, collectors, arterails, highways, freeways) that serve different purposes.

  9. This sounds like a terrible idea to me. With all the construction you can expect the preponderance of N-S car traffic to move to 12th. I can’t believe it wouldn’t be preferable to use one of the non-arterial avenues that links up to Cal Anderson Park–Federal or 11th.

  10. I don’t get why they put in a street car that has a set route that can’t be changed. You can change a buses route and (I think) it’s a lot less expensive. Whats the difference between a bus and a street car? Like, nothing?

  11. It’s completely ridiculous they are not extending this to north Broadway — to ease all the congestion up there and to service to this extraordinarily dense neighborhood, especially since they basically had all the federal funding for it.

    Why not plans to link it up to the South Lake Union Trolley? That would make too much sense.

  12. They are not toys….streetcars are a major form of transportation in many European cities, and in the USA too. I see a streetcar network as supplementing our still-evolving light rail system…serving areas that light rail does not effectively reach. What’s wrong with multimodal transportation systems?

  13. I’ve heard this argument about the so-called superiority of buses many times…..but many people will not ride buses for the obvious reasons, and streetcars are much more comfortable, not to mention less polluting.

    As far as costs, the First Hill streetcar is being financed by Sound Transit, as mitigation for their decision not to build a First Hill light rail station. I favor a multimodal transit system for our city…streetcars, buses, light rail…it’s all good!

  14. Uh, did you not read the part about how the city is planning on extending it to north Broadway? The reason that it wasn’t extended in the first phase is because the purpose of the project is to connect the First Hill neighborhood to the light rail system — that is accomplished by a streetcar that goes between the ID station and the Cap Hill station. Any extensions would be great but are outside of the original scope of the project.

  15. Yeah, Rebecca, why are you bothered by such blatant unequal representation in our politics?? It’s a good time to be a white man, which apparently BB fully understands

  16. It never ceases to amaze me how many negative, ignorant comments are generated on transportation issues. It’s obvious to me that many of the folks who are quick to criticize have very little understanding or knowledge of the history and original focus of the First Hill Streetcar. The Streetcar will be a very beneficial asset to those of us on the southern end of Broadway, who have been underserved by Metro, especially on.weekends. The Streetcar also brilliantly links Capitol/First Hills to Little Saigon, The International District and The Stadiums – without having to go downtown to transfer. As for the comment referring to the Streetcar as a white man’s plaything…well, such ignorance isn’t even worthy of additional comment or debate.