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City of Seattle

April 23, 3:53 PM click here to comment > 2

Breaking ground on the First Hill Streetcar

Today we took an important step in connecting our neighborhoods with rail. I joined elected leaders and community members from across the city to break ground on Seattle’s newest streetcar line – the First Hill Streetcar. To be constructed by the City with funding provided by Sound Transit, the streetcar line will allow riders to easily travel between neighborhoods on Capitol Hill, First Hill, Yesler Terrace, the Central Area, the Chinatown/International District and Pioneer Square, and better access Link Light rail service. The First Hill Streetcar will be operational by the spring of 2014, connecting thousands of riders daily with the places they live, work and socialize.

Our updated Transit Master Plan shows that we need to do better to connect Seattle’s neighborhoods with high quality transit. And we are doing just that with projects like the First Hill Streetcar and planning to connect our streetcars through Downtown. We’re also working hard to plan and find funding to extend the streetcar to north Broadway. The streetcar will serve Pioneer Square, an extension that we were able to include thanks to the hard work of staff from the Seattle Department of Transportation and Sound Transit.

The First Hill Streetcar will also help create good jobs here in Seattle. In addition to the jobs created by the line’s construction, the six streetcar vehicles that will operate on the route will be made through a partnership between Inekon, a Czech Republic firm, and Pacifica, a Seattle-based manufacturing firm. Pacifica will assemble the vehicles here in Seattle, a partnership that will provide approximately 20 living-wage manufacturing jobs in Seattle for this project. It also creates the opportunity for streetcar assembly in Seattle for other agencies nationwide, which could provide additional local jobs.

The groundbreaking took place at the site of a future streetcar station that will serve Seattle University, Swedish Medical Center, Virginia Mason Medical Center and the growing First Hill residential neighborhood. The stop will be one of 10 stations along a 2.5-mile route that will serve employment centers, educational institutions, entertainment and sports venues, and residential neighborhoods while enhancing access to regional rail service like Link Light rail and Sounder trains. I want to thank Sound Transit and City staff for all of their work, and the public for their vision when they voted to approve the Sound Transit 2 measure that makes these projects possible.

“The First Hill streetcar will be an important part of our regional transit system, connecting people who live and work throughout King County with outstanding institutions of healthcare and higher education,” said Sound Transit Board member and King County Executive Dow Constantine. “This line will also provide the foundation for future growth at Yesler Terrace and south Broadway.”

The First Hill Streetcar will connect the current Link Light rail station in the Chinatown/International District with the future rail station on Capitol Hill. The line is being built by the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) in partnership with Sound Transit. Sound Transit had initially planned an underground light rail stop on First Hill but abandoned the idea because of costs and risks associated with a deep station.

“From the moment we concluded building a deep-mined light rail station on First Hill was too risky, I strongly advocated for this streetcar line as a way to provide vital access to and from a regional light rail system that will stretch more than 50 miles by 2023,” said Sound Transit Board member and King County Council member Larry Phillips. “We made the First Hill Streetcar a top priority in shaping the Sound Transit 2 Plan, and today I couldn’t be more thrilled that we are about to watch our dream become a reality.”

The line will be constructed by Stacy and Witbeck, the firm that previously built the City’s South Lake Union line, and is estimated to cost $132.8 million.

“Many residents and business owners along the streetcar line, from Pioneer Square to Broadway, have told me that they are eager for operations to begin,” stated Seattle City Councilmember Tom Rasmussen. “The streetcar is intended to improve transportation and to attract people to visit and shop in our neighborhood business districts.”

Once operational, approximately 3,000 riders each day are expected to use the First Hill line. It will provide service from 5 a.m. to 1 a.m. Monday through Saturday and 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Sundays/holidays, running with 10-minute headways during peak/daytime hours. A trip from Pioneer Square to the future Link Light rail station on Capitol Hill is anticipated to take just under 20 minutes.

“For 101 years now, Swedish has recognized the importance of accessible transportation options for our employees, patients and their health,” said Dan Dixon, Vice President of External Affairs, Swedish Health Services. “The First Hill Streetcar is a brilliant continuance of creative transportation for our city. Elegant, quiet, environmentally friendly—we believe that all of us on First Hill will benefit for a generation from this mass-transit addition to our neighborhood.”

A facility for storing, cleaning and maintaining First Hill Streetcar vehicles will be located at the City of Seattle’s Charles Street yard at Seventh Avenue S and S Charles Street. The facility will serve as the center for First Hill streetcar operations with reporting, dispatch, streetcar maintenance, system maintenance and administration. Construction of the facility will begin in May 2012.

Photo by: Jen Nance

Posted by: Mayor Mike McGinn


Comment from Donn
Time April 26, 2012 at 3:42 pm

1) Why isn’t the old tracks for the previous street car being used in Pioneer Square?
2) Why does SDOT run the streetcar? Why do we need another public transit agency. Was there something wrong with allowing Sound Transit or Metro to operate the streetcar?

Comment from Todd Tollefson
Time April 26, 2012 at 4:36 pm

Mayor McGinn,

I hope you will respond to this email. I posted a similar message to this on your Facebook wall last time you sent out “The Reader” talking about streetcars.

As an avid bicyclist, I do not understand how you, who also bicycles, can advocate for streetcars. Have you bicycled down Westlake Avenue where the tracks are lately? It’s dangerous enough to bicycle in the city without having to worry about breaking your neck by getting your bike wheels caught in the tracks.

In addition, the streetcars seem expensive and redundant. The current streetcar serves no areas buses do not already, and I’m guessing cost a lot more to purchase and maintain (not to mention what happens if one breaks down – it’s on tracks, so the next one cannot get by it!).

Now you want to build more? What’s wrong with the buses that already serve CapHill, First Hill and the Int’l District, such as the 9 and the 60? You want to get from CapHill to Pioneer Square? Any bus going downtown will get you there.

I just shake my head every time I read about anyone talking up the streetcars. Can you please give me some reasons why you think our scarce transportation dollars should be spend on them?

Thank you,

Todd Tollefson
812 5th Ave N
Seattle, WA 98109