The Seattle Department of Transportation is pushing for approval by the City Council of a budget including the Center City Connector. However, the streetcar extension to Broadway north has been halted indefinitely.
“They’re committed to the design work, but listen, it’s not going to happen,” said Sierra Hansen, executive director for the Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce.
In 2009, the Broadway Extension was proposed by the Capitol Hill Community Council and the chamber. It extends from the point where the First Hill Streetcar stops at Seattle Central, to two additional stops at East Harrison Street and Roy Streets on Broadway.
We are against any extension
Broadway property and business owners have protested against the extension due to the perceived cost and negative effects, including the removal of left-turn lanes northbound or center for delivery trucks.
Hansen explained that in August the Broadway Business Improvement Area management chamber wrote to SDOT asking it not to accept funding from Puget Sound Regional Council. PSRC granted the Broadway Extension $1.75million in 2012 and $10 million in 2014.
Andrew Glass-Hastings is the director for transit and mobility at SDOT. Capitol HillTimes reports Tuesday that transportation officials will put the project back on hold and return funds to the PSRC, according to The Times.
“If we’re not going to do this particular project, the funding needs to go back to the PSRC to invest into other projects,” Hastings said, adding it’s possible other SDOT projects graded by the council could get some of that funding back. “We’re looking into seeing where our projects fit on that list.”
As it sits in SDOT’s 2017 budget, the Broadway Extension is estimated at around $25 million. The project looked viable at the time, so it was suggested that the local improvement district (LID) would be used to cover the extra cost of streetcar extensions. It would have been rejected if 60 percent of property owners in the district were to vote against the LID.
Glass-Hastings explained that SDOT initially responded to a request from community stakeholders. However, Capitol Hill’s First Hill Streetcar has helped the department realize its priorities have changed.
“We weren’t going to put ourselves in a position of trying to slam this project down the community’s throats if their priorities changed,” he said.
Glass-Hastings stated that the Broadway Extension design is well beyond 90 percent. She said she will continue to be available for anyone who wants to explore the line in the future.
Glass-Hastings stated that funding the Center City Connector and getting the funds for it is a priority. This would link the First Hill Streetcar with the South Lake Union lines via a $177million line on First Avenue.
Federal grants will cover $83 Million, while local taxes and utilities bills will pay $94 Million.
Councilmembers discussed the project at Monday’s budget meeting. Lisa Herbold, chair of the Select Budget Committee, questioned whether the ridership was worth the expense. Glass-Hastings said he doesn’t believe all councilmembers feel the same.
It comes at an additional cost
Additionally, council members discussed additional costs associated with operating First Hill Streetcar. The streetcar is funded by Sound Transit’s $5 million annual contribution. The streetcar line was Sound Transit’s alternative to constructing a First Hill light rail station. Sound Transit’s $5 million commitment to the city expires 2023.
“It makes sense for them to have an ongoing obligation to support the alternative to that station, which is the streetcar,” Glass-Hastings said, adding conversations about Sound Transit continuing to support the First Hill Streetcar will start up as the expiration date comes closer.