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Seattle - August 2004

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Seattle — Streetcar Stipulations

Rail Transit Online, August 2004

The city of Seattle would spend little or no money on the proposed streetcar line between downtown and South Lake Union under legislation sponsored by Councilman Richard Conlin.  A majority of council members said they like the idea of the $45-million, 2.5-mi. (4 km) line but can’t justify spending taxpayer money because hundreds of millions of dollars in maintenance is needed on existing transportation infrastructure.  Streetcar promoters, primarily Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen whose company is planning a massive redevelopment project in the South Lake Union area, believe most of the money will come from state and federal grants and a tax assessment on property located along the route.  A study conducted by Parsons Brinckerhoff, Nelson Nygaard Consulting Associates and URS Corp. and released by the city in early July showed the line would initially carry 30 to 35 riders an hour, increasing substantially as the redevelopment project produced more jobs. The council is expected to vote on Conlin’s streetcar legislation at its Aug. 16 meeting. 

Meanwhile, seven council members have signed a letter to Sound Transit requesting an extension of the existing Waterfront heritage streetcar line to the Chinatown International and Central districts.  The route currently runs from along South Main Street from Fifth Avenue South to the waterfront, then beneath the Alaskan Way Viaduct (Route 99) to Broad Street.  The council members want an extension on South Jackson Street from Fifth Avenue South to 12th Avenue South and possibly to 23rd Avenue South.  It would be financed as part of ST’s second batch of projects that will be submitted to voters next year or in 2006.  The city has already studied the proposal and found that the streetcars would be popular with both residents and tourists, generating 250,000 boardings annually, and could help generate redevelopment.  The cost was estimated at $47 million.  The legislation blocking municipal spending on the South Lake Union streetcar contains a provision encouraging the expenditure of federal and state money on a more detailed study of the Waterfront line expansion. 


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