[updated with additional budget details: 3:05pm]
Mayor Murray is delivering his budget address from 2-3pm today. The speech will be archived on the Seattle Channel, or you can read the remarks as prepared here. Though rightfully focused on housing, policing, and other major issues, several transportation line items were also called out.
The budget funds the Lander overpass, Bike and Pedestrian Master Plan implementation, Vision Zero initiatives, and the first hard commitment to fund the City Center Connector. The $45m city contribution will combine with an expected $75m grant to fund roughly 75% of the line’s capital cost, with $30m in additional funds coming from Seattle City Light and Seattle Public Utilities for relocation work on 1st Avenue and Stewart Street. The city’s funding will primarily come from bonding against Commercial Parking Tax revenue. Total project costs are estimated at $166m.
The $45m in local funding would be spread over 4 years, with $4.7m this year, $16m in 2018, and $24m in the 2019-2020 biennium. The Council’s actions this fall would commit the city to spend the full $45m, but they would only be allocating the first $21m for this biennium.
The funding would set up the line for construction in 2018-2019, with a 2020 opening. The construction would bring welcome transit right-of-way to 1st Avenue, and make relative lemonade from the relative lemons of the South Lake Union and First Hill lines. From Pioneer Square to Pike Place Market, or Chinatown to Colman Dock, etc, the streetcar will be a more direct path than an out-of-direction walk to 3rd Avenue or the Link tunnel. The line would also forego the fatal mistake of the first two lines, that of running in mixed-traffic.
If the new funding is approved and the federal grant comes through as expected, construction would occur during the most intense period of disruption for downtown arterials, with simultaneous construction of Madison BRT, 2-way Columbia Street, Alaskan Way Viaduct demolition, the Waterfront overhaul, Convention Center expansion, conversion to a rail-only Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel, East Link related closure of the I-90 transitway, and more. The confluence of these issues is the heart of the One Center City (formerly Center City Mobility Plan) that is off to a slow start, but will begin convening its Advisory Group this fall.
Prior City Councils were pronounced for their streetcar skepticism – especially former CM Nick Licata – with both good and bad reasons for opposition. It will be interesting to watch as this line item works its way through the budget process. There are fears that the city balking at this line may make the FTA more hesitant to fund future grants to Seattle DOT, for projects such as Madison BRT or other Rapid Ride conversions.