Share story

Groundbreaking will happen for the First Hill Streetcar next month, after the Seattle City Council passed an ordinance Monday to enter a $68 million construction contract with Stacy & Witbeck.

Voters in the Puget Sound region approved the line in 2008 as part of the Sound Transit 2 plan, a sales tax boost that mainly funds suburban light-rail extensions to Northgate, Lynnwood, Overlake, Kent and Federal Way by the early 2020s.  Seattle’s new streetcar will run from Pioneer Square to the International District/Chinatown Station, then past Seattle University and First Hill hospitals, ending at Sound Transit’s 2016 Capitol Hill light-rail station on Broadway.

Seattle will manage design and construction as described here, while Sound Transit funds nearly all the $134 million budget, which includes a $13 million contingency fund to defend against cost overruns. Seattle is chipping in $1.2 million for utility and sidewalk improvements.

Trains will begin service in early 2014, a slip from the late 2013 date the city earlier published.  Design features include bicycle lanes separates from cars, and small landscaped plazas at each station.  The railcars, to be built in Seattle by Pacifica Marine, will contain onboard batteries and regenerative braking — in essence allowing southbound trips, mostly downhill, without overhead power lines to conflict with Metro’s popular electric trolleybuses.  A project open house is Wednesday from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Silver Cloud Inn, near the corner of Broadway and Madison Street.

Seattle is seeking a $2 million federal grant to plan an extension beyond Capitol Hill Station, continuing north to Roy Street, said city Councilman Tom Rasmussen, transportation committee chairman. “I do think if the streetcar doesn’t go through the main part of the commercial district on Broadway, people are going to scratch their heads and wonder, why did it stop there?” Rasmussen said.