This post originally appeared on Orphan Road.

Nice post from daijamin at STB interviewing SDOT’s project manager for the streetcar, Ethan Melone. I’m particularly intrigued by the idea of running the line up Westlake, through Fremont and into Ballard via Leary.

My big concern with the streetcar, other than the obvious stuck-in-traffic issues, has been crossing the ship canal. It seems to me you’ve got two big problems there: (1) having to wait while the bridge goes up, and (2) getting stuck in the traffic jam that results from the bridge going up.

The Fremont Bridge alignment has a lot of advantages over Ballard Bridge (notably the fact that it would serve Fremont!). But two big disadvantages are the congested intersections on either side of the Fremont Bridge.

Now, obviously it would be cool if the streetcar tunneled under the canal, or rose over it at such height as to avoid a drawbridge (a la the Monorail). But both of those options strike me as expensive and unlikely.

So why not build two single-lane, streetcar-only drawbridges on either side of the Fremont Bridge? The streetcar would get its own right-of-way, and could queue right up to the bridge, avoiding the backup of cars, and also avoid the tangle of intersections on either side of the Bridge. Something like this:


Now, I realize I’ve drawn one of those lines right through the Adobe campus. And for all I know two single-lane drawbridges are more expensive than tunneling under the canal. But I doubt it.

Anyway, consider this just some Friday night fantasy-mapping for your consideration. Thoughts?

13 Replies to “Streetcar”

  1. CJH,

    I’m not too concerned about $45M for a bridge. That’s pocket change in transit terms. Consider the $1B for the beacon hill light rail tunnel.

    If the City of Seattle is serious about staking the future of intra-city quasi-rapid transit on streetcars (not my preference, but that seems to be where we’re headed), then we ought to at least do it right, and separate them from traffic whenever and wherever possible.

  2. Considering the increases in material costs since ’03, it would probably be more than $45 million for one bridge. And then there’s the value of the land it would be built upon. Not $1 billion, certainly, for two bridges but considering the scale of the project, a fair percentage of the budget.

    To be frank, Frank, I also don’t like the idea of building a bridge to complete a loop since I hope that the streetcar won’t be terminating at Fremont but eventually extending northward to, at least, 46th.

    But I whole-heartedly agree on the importance of rights of way – in fact, I hope that the city is looking at this as light rail lite like Muni Metro in SF or innumerable European streetcar/trolley systems rather than an almost totally in-traffic system like the current streetcar or Portland’s streetcar.

  3. Uh, that’s a navigable waterway, with NOAA on Lake Washington. The bridge(s) would have to be permitted, and they would have to be opening.

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