To build a citywide streetcar network, Seattle is considering four possible new lines connecting neighborhoods to downtown. After completion of the...

Share story

To build a citywide streetcar network, Seattle is considering four possible new lines connecting neighborhoods to downtown.

After completion of the 1.3-mile streetcar line in South Lake Union last year, city officials now envision a streetcar system similar to the one in place before 1941.

“If the community is ready to make the commitment, they’re buildable,” said Grace Crunican, Seattle transportation director. “You can put it in place, start building and add to it as financing comes in.”

Transportation officials will present their ideas today to the City Council.

The four proposed lines would run between Queen Anne and the Central Area, between Ballard and Fremont, between South Lake Union and the University District, and between Capitol Hill and First Hill.

Mayor Greg Nickels and the City Council have not yet committed funding to build new lines.

The South Lake Union streetcar opened in December after a year and a half of construction. Property owners along the route are paying half of the $52 million cost.

City officials estimate about 1,000 trips per day on the line.

They anticipate higher ridership — at least 1 million annually — on each of the proposed lines. Each would connect to either the existing South Lake Union line or to the Sound Transit light-rail line, scheduled to open next year.

The new streetcar lines would also cost more — ranging from $110 million for a 2.8-mile line on Capitol Hill to $180 million for a four-mile line along First Avenue and Jackson Street.

Crunican said city officials likely would seek funding as they did for the South Lake Union line, from property owners, transportation agencies and other public grants.

Most of the new lines would be laid in the center of the road, a response to bicyclists’ complaints that their tires were getting stuck in the tracks built along the curb in South Lake Union.

The four proposals are:

• Central Line. Streetcars would run every six minutes from KeyArena along First Avenue through downtown, turning east on South Jackson Street and end at 23rd Avenue South. Crunican favors doing this project first, given the uncertain future of the Alaskan Way Viaduct. Cost: $180 million.

• Fremont/Ballard Line. Streetcars would run every 10 to 15 minutes from 22nd Avenue Northwest and Northwest Market Street in Ballard, through Fremont and end at the South Lake Union line. Cost: $130 million.

• First Hill/Capitol Hill Line. Streetcars would run every 12 minutes from East Aloha Street, south on Broadway, ending at Union Station. Cost: $110 million.

• U-Line. Streetcars would run every 10 minutes from the University of Washington along Eastlake Avenue East to the South Lake Union line. Cost: $170 million.

Ted Choi Lam, a property owner near South Jackson Street and senior adviser to the Seattle Chinese Chamber of Commerce, said he thinks there is neighborhood interest in using property taxes to fund a streetcar. He hopes to see a streetcar circling through his neighborhood and Capitol Hill.

“It just takes time to educate, orient and figure out what the costs are,” he said.

Sharon Pian Chan: 206-464-2958 or schan@seattletimes.com