Drivers, pedestrians and bicyclists take note: Test runs for Seattle’s new First Hill streetcar line have started.
Testing for Seattle’s new First Hill streetcar line began this week on Broadway, as the city strives to launch passenger service this summer.
There is no specific schedule for the next round of tests, according to city and maintenance staff. But drivers, bicyclists and pedestrians should stay alert, and avoid sudden movements and turns in front of the 2.5-mile trackway.
Delivery trucks and other wide vehicles must be parked along the curb, so as not to protrude into the streetcar’s space. Such blockages have been a recurring problem on the South Lake Union line.
On Monday night, a sky-blue streetcar traveled from its maintenance base alongside Chinatown International District at low speed, to the final station near the corner of Broadway and Denny Way.
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It went off-wire during the descent back to Chinatown ID, according a blog post by Norm Mah, a spokesman for the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT). The corridor is uniquely engineered for trains to retract their power poles and travel downhill on stored battery power, so as to reduce the wiring and conflicts with electrically powered buses in the Little Saigon area, where South Jackson Street meets 12th and Rainier avenues.
It’s been almost seven years since voters approved the $134 million project, funded almost entirely by the regional Sound Transit 2 ballot measure. The grand opening is nearly 1½ years behind schedule, after delays in procuring trains from a Czech supplierthat were recently resolved.
City Transportation Director Scott Kubly said in March that passenger service would start this summer, immediately following final tests in May and June.
New streetcar operators have been in training this week, by King County Metro Transit on the South Lake Union streetcar line.
Officials on Wednesday would not confirm whether the First Hill line remains on track to open mid-year.
“We’re still in testing phase. Until we have progress, I won’t have anything to tell you,” Mah said Thursday morning.
Final assembly and wiring on four of the seven streetcars (one of which was purchased by Amazon for the SLU line) is being done by Seattle company Pacifica Marine in the maintenance base.
Sound Transit initially conceived the streetcar as a feeder service to the International District/Chinatown and the future Capitol Hill light-rail stations, after elected officials in 2005 canceled an underground First Hill subway station, because of high cost and tricky construction. However, the city’s design placed streetcars in general traffic lanes, making it likely that congestion will frustrate commuters or hinder ridership.
The baby-blue streetcar is supposed to represent babies born at First Hill hospitals. Other colors are pink for Capitol Hill; gold and silver to represent Pioneer Square’s Klondike gold rush days; vermilion and yellow for traditional Chinese colors; and Amazon’s burnt orange.