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Seattle - April 2005

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Seattle — Saving the Streetcar

Rail Transit Online, April 2005

A Seattle Port Commissioner has developed a proposal that could not only keep the Waterfront Streetcar operating but extend the line as well.  The heritage trolley was threatened will closure this fall because the site where its carbarn and maintenance facility is located at Alaskan Way and Broad Street will be taken over by the Seattle Art Museum for construction of its long-planned $85-million Olympic Sculpture Park.  Commissioner Paige Miller, who is also a city council candidate, offered to have the Port finance a streetcar extension — plus two new stations and a new electrical sub-station — running north from the existing line through Myrtle Edwards Park to a rent-free parcel of land adjacent to a waterfront grain terminal where a new carbarn could be erected.   The expansion and new stations would serve some 15,000 people employed in the area. 

Miller admitted it would a challenge to complete the project before the museum takes over the current trolley barn, especially since money would have to be raised for the maintenance facility — the Port will only pay for the tracks and stations.  Museum officials have promised their cooperation but so far have declined to slow the sculpture park’s construction schedule, which may mean the two-mile (3.21 km), nine-stop streetcar line, which opened in 1982, will have to be shut down temporarily.  The plan has attracted nearly universal support among community leaders and elected officials, who called it an innovative and exciting solution. 

However, numerous hurdles must still be overcome.  First, the extension would cost an estimated $17 million and the new carbarn about $2.6 million.  Despite Miller’s announcement, the funding still has not been nailed down.  The Alaskan Way Viaduct, which looms over the trolley track along much of the route, must soon be replaced or seismically strengthened, a complex job which could keep the trolley closed for up to 11 years.  The project would include double tracking the rail line.  Local officials also want to incorporate the waterfront line into a longer streetcar route to Interbay using modern rolling stock which would include the proposed extension to the grain terminal.  Meanwhile, local elected officials, many of whom will face the voters this year, are scrambling to develop an implementation plan. 

Web site: http://transit.metrokc.gov/tops/bus/waterfront_streetcar.html

Web site: www.historylink.org


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