In March, Seattle DOT’s Move Seattle plan included two streetcar lines. The Center City Connector (CCC) is a tram in dedicated right-of-way along First Avenue that would join the First Hill and South Lake Union Streetcars. It scores well on cost per rider metrics, partly because it’s quite short, at a cost of roughly $110m. Extending the First Hill Streetcar to Roy St., a $25m project, is a longstanding demand from nearly residents and businesses.
Alert readers noticed that the final $930m Move Seattle ballot measure announced earlier this month mentioned neither project in the promotional materials or the ordinance itself. I asked SDOT director Scott Kubly what this meant for the rail plans:
Both are priorities. The Levy isn’t planned as a funding source for either project. Both are listed in the Move Seattle strategic vision.
As it turns out, both projects have reasonably solid funding plans that don’t depend on Move Seattle. For the CCC, Seattle applied for a 2016 $75m Small Starts Grant from USDOT. Sources at the city say they hope to fund the remaining $30m or so by bonding against on-street advertising revenue. Construction would begin in 2017 or 2018. If a $7m Local Improvement District (LID) materializes for the Roy Extension, it will start construction as soon as 2016.
This actually might help Move Seattle’s electoral prospects, given the faction in city politics that reacts severely to the slightest whiff of streetcar funding. Critics pilloried the failed 2011 vehicle license fee* for spending on streetcars, although their share of the budget was a mere 9%. In June retiring Councilmember Nick Licata unsuccessfully tried to forbid any money from Move Seattle going to a streetcar, no matter how much conditions change. But even before his maneuvering, there was no streetcar funding in the program.
So will any part of Move Seattle ultimately fund one of these two projects? Realistically, SDOT has to deliver the signature projects in the measure before it thinks about using any savings or surplus on other stuff in the master plan. Most of the streetcar funding will come from other sources, and with good fortune it all will. In any case the gap would be a tiny percentage of the Move Seattle package. In the end, the projects actually on the ballot are so badly needed that it’s worth passing, no matter how you feel about streetcars, and whether or not Move Seattle becomes relevant to them.
* Sadly (?), links to these arguments are lost to bit rot.