City Council member Tom Rasmussen is not happy about delays with the First Hill Streetcar. While his office never responded to CHS as we broke the news last week that streetcar service won’t be started as late as the end of July, Rasmussen did have a lot of questions for the director of the Seattle Department of Transportation during a Tuesday council meeting.
When pressed about why the manufacturer Inkekon had still not shipped three streetcars from the Czech Republic, SDOT’s Scott Kubly said the delay was more about poor timeline setting. Inekon had to redesign several key components from their stock streetcar model and Kubly said the city had not anticipated the extra manufacturing time.
However, Kubly’s heavy handed response to the delay suggests he and SDOT are taking an even more serious response to the issues.
Kubly said he began holding daily phone calls with the CEO of Inekon last month and that he is planning a trip to the Czech Republic in February to inspect production and press the importance of delivering the cars as soon as possible.
“This is frustrating,” Rasmussen said during the meeting. “How do you know they’re just not putting you off and not making excuses, and if they really buckled down they could get this thing done sooner?”
In fact, the city is paying a firm named LTK to monitor production in the Czech Republic. When Rasmussen asked Kubly whether he thought LTK was performing up to snuff, Kubly responded “I don’t think there is any individual or entity that is working on this project right now that has done a perfect job.”
Kubly said he hoped the streetcar would be running by “early summer” but did not want to put a firm date on it.
There are currently three streetcars awaiting final assembly in Seattle, three yet to be shipped from the Czech Republic, and one that’s traversing the Atlantic on its way to Elliot Bay. Six of those cars will be use for the First Hill Streetcar and the remaining car is for the South Lake Union line.
The Inekon streetcars for the First Hill line were originally planned to be ready by October 7th, 2014 as per the $26.7 million contract with SDOT. The city is recouping $1,000 per day plus an an initial $25,000 for the missed deadline, but Kubly said the fee was likely not high enough.
One of the features
holding up that held up production in the Czech Republic was a new propulsion system designed specifically for the First Hill line. The new system will allow streetcars to periodically detach from their overhead wires so they can travel alongside city busses. Now that its designed and built, Kubly said Inekon is struggling to put it all together.
“At this point they are scrambling all over the Czech Republic to find workers… to assemble the vehicles,” he said.
At the end of his presentation, Kubly discussed a few lessons learned following the repeated delays.“There’s nobody in the city that has experience procuring rail cars… I think that speaks to the type of project management we’ll need to bring on the next time we procure railcars,” he said.
“Indeed,” Rasmussen agreed.
Construction of the streetcar tracks wrapped up last year along with the construction of the Broadway bikeway. 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.
h/t to @ro_ket for the shipping fun