Seattle Streetcar Project Facing Major Challenges

The city council approved funding for a new streetcar line, but cost increases mean the project is behind schedule and federal funds could be in jeopardy.

1 minute read

September 3, 2019, 12:00 PM PDT

By Camille Fink

Seattle Streetcar

Ian Fisher / Flickr

The Seattle City Council recently approved a $9 million loan for design and engineering work for the First Avenue streetcar project, a 1.3-mile route that would connect the system’s two existing lines.

The new line was originally scheduled to open in 2018, but delays related to project cost increases now have the line scheduled to start running in 2026. "The city had secured $50 million of $75 million in expected federal funding for the streetcar, but that could lapse next year," report Heidi Groover and Michelle Baruchman.

Projections show the streetcar system with the new line will triple annual ridership to up to 6 million riders. Proponents say the streetcars have more capacity than buses and the expanded system will have the potential to attract new riders.

But, in addition to the uncertainty about the project schedule and funding, questions have arisen about the system’s vehicles. "Some Seattleites were left scratching their heads at the news that the city ordered cars for the new line that are 9 feet longer and about 21,000 pounds heavier than the cars in use, creating compatibility issues with the existing lines," note Groover and Baruchman.

Monday, August 26, 2019 in The Seattle Times

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