Slog has an interesting report on the Capitol Hill Community Council and its fight for the city to fund a study an extension of the First Hill Streetcar north to Aloha:
“If we’re going to build it, let’s build it right,” says Tony Russo, who designed the Capitol Hill Community Council’s kickass Broadway streetcar proposal, and has lobbied the city hard to extend the streetcar to the end of Broadway Avenue. “We need cycletracks and the extension, and we need them both now.” The Capitol Hill Community Council has been fighting to get an Aloha Street extension back on Seattle Department of Transportation’s agenda since it was cut due to the project’s budget constraints. An Aloha extension would cost an estimated $20 million dollars to build.
However, the Capitol Hill Community Council says this $20 million dollars isn’t pressing—the city has several years to come up with the money while it works on the main leg of the streetcar, and, as Russo put it, “Obama’s throwing money at streetcars right now.” Their concern is funding the $750,000 preliminary engineering study and environmental review, which they say needs to be completed by June of this year when SDOT and Sound Transit finalize contract agreements for the streetcar line. Currently, the scope of the contract is written to terminate construction of the streetcar at Broadway and East John Street, at the light rail station.
The report goes on to say that SDOT doesn’t believe that there is any deadline for preliminary engineering, which is consistent with my reporting. The issue is probably better explained as follows: Right now, Sound Transit doesn’t provide any funding to do preliminary engineering on an Ahola extension, and it would be easier to study the extension at the same time we plan the current streetcar plan. (Similar to how East Link is planning a connection between Overlake and downtown Redmond, even though it will probably be many years before that segment begins construction.)
However, Seattle’s Department of Transportation can’t study the Aloha extension without money to do so. It would make sense to ask ST to provide the funding for planning the extension since the streetcar budget is scheduled to come in millions under budget and the Mayor has said a top priority should be extending the line to serve north Broadway. And if ST doesn’t give the city the opportunity, then the city could lose out on federal money since the extension won’t be “shovel-ready” for a future round of streetcar funding.
That’s the larger point: if ST doesn’t step up to the plate soon, no one will and the Aloha extension will most likely have to be entirely funded locally rather than with federal aid. And that means that the relatively cheap extension is unlikely to be built soon.