This post originally appeared on Orphan Road.

I wrote an e-mail to the mayor about the comment here from [Seattle Greg]. It was a way to save the waterfront streetcar during the viaduct mess and a suggestion of bringing it north to the cruise ships.

The response I received from SDOT is below. A few interesting and depressing points:
1. Clearly they don’t intend to ever bring back to the waterfront streetcar. This is especially a shame, as 1st is so much less scenic than the waterfront.
2. Even with the tunnel option they’re planning on making Alaskan essentially into a highway. Ew.

It seems we’re missing an opportunity here. With the viaduct gone we could have a path-separated right of way for a streetcar. Instead we’re putting one stuck in 1st Avenue baseball traffic. Smart, Seattle.

Thank you for your recent message to Mayor Greg Nickels regarding the George Benson Waterfront Streetcar line.

The Alaskan Way needs to be replaced. Early in 2009, Governor Christine Gregoire, King County Executive Ron Sims, and Mayor Greg Nickels recommended replacement of the structure with a Bored Tunnel. More information about this project can be found at the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) website at The Bored Tunnel solution includes not only the roadway, but also transit and street improvements to complement the tunnel and maintain an acceptable level of mobility through the area.

As part of the Alaskan Way Viaduct Seawall Replacement (AWVSP), Alaskan Way will be rebuilt, necessitating the removal of existing streetcar tracks and overhead wire. Seawall construction, viaduct demolition, and construction of surface street and promenade improvements would intermittently interrupt waterfront streetcar operations between 2012 and 2018, making it an unattractive transit option for this program. However, a program of surface street and transit improvements is proposed as part of the AWVSRP, including a new streetcar line on First Avenue, funded by the City of Seattle. The new streetcar line would run parallel to the waterfront and provide convenient waterfront connections at several locations including Yesler Way, the Marion Street Pedestrian Bridge to Washington State Ferries, Harbor Steps, the Pike Place Market Hillclimb, the Bell Street Pedestrian Bridge connection to Bell Harbor Conference Center and the Port of Seattle Cruise Ship Terminal, and the Olympic Sculpture Park at Broad Street.

This new line will also provide significantly expanded connections, including service to Seattle Center, and will connect with other streetcar service such as the existing South Lake Union Line and the First Hill Line recently funded by Sound Transit. In addition, this line will provide further transit connections to Metro bus service, Sounder Commuter Rail, Link Light Rail, and the Monorail. The First Avenue Streetcar is planned to provide a much higher level of service than was available on the Waterfront Streetcar line, with streetcars arriving as frequently as every 7.5 minutes as compared with 20 minutes between trains on the Waterfront Streetcar line.

The Alaskan Way Viaduct solution of a bored tunnel was designed to respond to the variety of stakeholders who have an interest in this pathway. This includes transit riders, drivers, businesses, environmentalists and freight operators, among many others. Moving streetcar service to First Avenue will allow transit in the area to be improved and it will also allow Alaskan Way street and signal design to prioritize through movement for freight and vehicle trips that are not served by the new bored tunnel for State Route 99, while also reserving a significant portion of the right-of-way for a promenade green space.

Thank you again for your email. If you have further questions or comments, please contact Ethan Melone, SDOT Rail Transit Manager, at (206) 684-8066 or ethan(dot)melone(at)seattle.(dot)gov [editor: e-mail changed to avoid spambots].


Grace Crunican, Director
Seattle Department of Transportation

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