Testing will begin this month as Seattle’s First Hill Streetcar line moves toward a start of service this summer. The announcement is part of a series of updates planned as part of Tuesday’s City Council briefing with Seattle Department of Transportation head Scott Kubly on the status of the delayed streetcar line.
“Vehicle manufacturer is six months behind schedule for all vehicles to be ready for service,” reads the first bullet point on the “Current Status” slide in the presentation prepared for the city council’s transportation committee. The full document is embedded below.
UPDATE 3/10/2015 10:45 AM: In Tuesday morning’s briefing, Kubly responded to questions about why SDOT’s contract with the streetcar manufacturer didn’t have a stronger incentive for the maker to stay on schedule for a project the SDOT director was intended to begin service last year and how the department provided updates on the situation to the rest of City Hall.
Speaking on the ambitious Move Seattle transit initiatives earlier in the morning, Kubly spent the rest of his time with council bogged down in the difficulties of delivering the start of service on the First Hill Streetcar line.
Laying the fault of the delays on challenges presented by “a combination” of new battery technology, new communications software, and changes in national fire standards, Kubly said that SDOT will change the way it contracts for “liquidated damages” in future manufacturing deals. Liquidated damages are “damages whose amount the parties designate during the formation of a contract for the injured party to collect as compensation upon a specific breach.”
Kubly said in the re-worked First Hill Streetcar deal, owed liquidated damages will be paid in spare parts.
SDOT planner Ethan Melone said there are two or three cars ready to be delivered in early April. Each streetcar takes 8,000 hours of labor to assemble once they reach Seattle, Kubly said. There are currently three under assembly here and one is complete.
Kubly said vehicle testing will “start very slowly and baby steps” next week and will mean activity “out on the streets.” In the beginning, expect to only see the completed tram on 8th Ave S.
Kubly also addressed questions around why the streetcars are assembled both in the Czech Republic and in Seattle by sub-contractor Pacifica. Kubly described the decision to include a local jobs initiative in the bid process to select a manufacturing partner for the project. CHS reported on the selection of Inekom as the manufacturer in 2011. The Inekon-Pacifica consortium was also expected to bid on future streetcar projects in other cities, Mayor Mike McGinn said at the time.
Last week, CHS reported on the latest twist in the manufacturing delays for the hybrid streetcar trams that saw SDOT negotiating a new deal with new penalties for further delays.The first car in the contract has already been delivered. According to the presentation, the sixth and final car in the deal is due by June 30th. The document says that a seventh optional tram is also part of the deal and would be due by mid-June.
According to the briefing, the Czech Republic-based manufacture Inekom is on the hook for $111,000 in fines at this point with another $150,000 waived under the deal. Any delays after June 1st of the six streetcar trams slated to be delivered under the deal will result in daily fines starting at $500 per car on June 15th and escalating to $1,000 per car, per day starting on July 1st.
More money could be useful. Kubly will also report on cost overruns in the streetcar project due to the addition of a $4M Pioneer Square segment “without additional funding” and $1.8M in unexpected costs due to “significant upgrades to signal infrastructure at 31 intersections.” The overruns net out to a $1.6 million funding gap, according to the presentation.