Seattle’s City Council’s Transportation committee approved a streetcar expansion plan in a 4 to 2 vote today. A full council vote is expected for next week. Four lines in total were approved, the First Hill Line, the Central Line, a Ballard line and a University District Line. The two streetcar lines fast-tracked are the First Hill Line, which has had $120 million in funding approved as part of ST2 that passed last month, and the Central Line, which is meant to be a part of the Alaskan Way Viaduct construction mitigation. The Central Line will replace the defunct Waterfront Streetcar line, which will finally be removed during viaduct construction.
The First Hill line would run from the Pioneer Square or ID tunnel station up Jackson to around Broadway, turn north and follow Broadway up to either John or Aloha. The Central Line would follow First Ave from the Pioneer Square station to about Mercer street. Neither alignment is fixed, and there are groups pushing to change both plans. Some in First Hill want that line moved further west, since it was meant as a replacement for a First Hill subway station, and some along First Avenue don’t like that alignment for the Central Line, believing it would worsen traffic and remove parking along the street.
The vote also approved an extension of the SLU line on Eastlake to the University District, and a line to Ballard either on 15th Avenue or along Westlake through Fremont. Those two lines are not fast tracked. It’s worth noting that there is no funding for either of these lines, and that funding for the Central Line as part of the viaduct replacement is not definite, though the rumor is that WSDOT will fund it.
Since these routes can be built pretty quickly, both the Central Line and the First Hill line could open by 2012 or possibly sooner. Many in the city want the First Hill line to open much sooner than the funding is scheduled to come on line from ST2 – which allocates funding for the line around 2016 -since construction on the Capitol Hill station is going to disrupt life on Broadway, and bringing the streetcar there could make life a little easier. Final engineering for the First Hill line should be done by February 2009.
The two dissenters on this vote were Nick Licata and Richard McIver. Tom Rassmussen, who is not on the transportation panel, is likely to vote ‘no’ as well, and has a competing plan that he will bring to the full council along with Licata. One of the other two members not on the committee would need to vote yes in order to approve the streetcars in a full council vote.
Image from caseysail, via the STB flickr pool