First Hill Streetcar Jackson St. Corridor Update

First Hill StreetcarSound Transit and the City of Seattle will be holding an open house at Seattle’s Hong Kong Building at the Summer Festival on Saturday, July 10th to discuss recent developments and the next steps involved with constructing the First Hill Streetcar line connecting the Capitol Hill and International District LINK Light Rail stations.

The Seattle City Council has approved the First Hill Streetcar with a segment along Jackson St. through the Chinatown/International District neighborhood.

The latest visualizations for the Jackson St. portion of the route will be on display at the open house for viewing and commenting by the public. City representatives will be on hand to answer any questions regarding this portion of the route as well as the line in general.

11:30 AM – 2:00 PM, Saturday, July 10th
Hong Kong Building
511B Maynard Avenue S., Seattle, WA 98104
For directions click here.

For More Information: Seattle Streetcar (official site)

Actual route map: Click here

Comment on the First Hill Streetcar Alignment

The Seattle City Council Transportation Committee wants to hear your thoughts about the proposed First Hill Streetcar alignment:

Thursday, April 22, 2010
5:30 p.m.

Seattle First Baptist Church
1111 Harvard Avenue
Seattle, WA 98122

It’s obvious from some epic comment threads that people have a lot to say, so take the time to say it to someone who can do something about it.  Show up early to get on the speaking list.

Slog: Cap Hill Fights for Design on Aloha Extension

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.

SDOT: Two-Way Broadway for First Hill Streetcar

SDOT's Recommended Alignment: Two-Way Broadway
SDOT's Recommended Alignment: Two-Way Broadway

Seattle’s Department of Transportation has recommended the Two-Way Broadway alignment for the First Hill Streetcar. The recommendation was given in a presentation to the interested parties Wednesday night, according to Richard Sheridan from the department. The recommendation was first reported by Central District News; an impressive scoop.

The park loop initially proposed, which would have had the streetcar route encircle Cal Anderson Park, was dropped because it “didn’t have a lot of advantages” and was “creating more concerns” than keeping the route on Broadway north of Union, according to Ethane Melone, who headed the recommendation process for SDOT.

The Two-Way Broadway alignment performed the best on most metrics the city measured; perhaps most importantly in this climate, it is expected to be the most frugal option. SDOT’s presentation also covered the cost of perhaps extending the Broadway line north from its planned terminus at John St north to Aloha: just $20 million, but some money would be needed to fund the design of the extension in the short term to make the exention “shovel-ready.”

“If that extension were funded by the early part of 2012,” Melone said, “it could be added to the construction contract, and completed at the same time or shortly thereafter.” He also noted that the quarter-mile extension could be completed “in a matter of months” regardless of when it’s funded. Mayor McGinn’s light rail package that will be sent to voters sometime next year could well include funding for an extension.

The exact configuration on Broadway is to-be-determined. The city will be looking at a proposal from the Capitol Hill Community Council for a two-way “cycle track” that is separated from traffic. A cycle-track would have little impact on parking, Melone said, but would require removing the center-turn lane from Broadway.

Some neighborhood groups are likely to be disappointed by the recommendation after heavy lobbying for a 12th Ave Couplet alignment, which this blog editorialized against. Melone told us that the stations being separated by distance and grade could have made the line “less intuitive” to ride and create “a perception of inconvenience.” First Hill hospitals hoping for alignments that pass closer to hospital entrances were probably expecting this decision after earlier analysis concluded their favored alignments were much more expensive than other alternatives.

SDOT made its recommendation to Mayor McGinn, who will in turn make a recommendation to the City Council, who has the final say. CHS reports that the mayor has said he’s leaning toward the Broadway alignment.