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Seattle’s halted streetcar project will resume, at higher cost

The South Lake Union streetcar. (AP)

After months of speculation over the future of Seattle’s streetcar, the city is putting the 1st Avenue project back on the rails.

And it will cost much more than previously promised — $286 million dollars. That is double the original estimate from when the line was proposed in 2015, and $88 million more than what was budgeted in 2017. This new estimate includes nearly $17 million dollars to retrofit the existing tracks to fit the larger train cars ordered for the expansion.

“As we reconnect downtown with our new Waterfront for All, we have the opportunity to create a downtown with fewer cars and where residents, workers, and visitors can walk, bike, and take transit. A unified streetcar route provides a unique opportunity to build on our investments for the next generation,” Mayor Jenny Durkan said. “…By connecting the First Hill and South Lake Union lines with the new Center City Connector, millions of people will have the opportunity to use a complete system and create easier access to our waterfront, South Lake Union, the new arena, Pioneer Square, and Chinatown-International District.”

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After halting the project last year because it was way over budget, Seattle Mayor Durkan announced Thursday she decided to complete the line, connecting South Lake Union and Capitol Hill.

The line was initially expected to open in 2020. That was before budget concerns and further questions halted the project. It will now open in 2025.

Mayor Durkan also noted that alternatives were looked at to serve the same stretch of 1st Avenue.

“1st Avenue is limited in the number of buses that can travel there without significant changes to the street, because of how and when they were constructed,” she told KIRO Radio.

Durkan has yet to speak with Seattle City Council and communities on the proposed streetcar.

“This will take some time to have deep conversations with stakeholders and communities, and Council, they have to absorb this information themselves, and we have to together work to chart a path forward,” she said.

“Communities like Pioneer Square have seen the promise of this connected streetcar system for years,” said Aaron Barthel, owner of Intrigue Chocolates. “I’m pleased the mayor is getting the project back on track. I love having the First Hill Streetcar in front of my business and look forward to receiving new visitors from South Lake Union and the Pike Place Market.”

Barthel’s statement comes with an announcement from the Seattle Streetcar Coalition. The coalition promotes that once the streetcar system is finished in Seattle, it will offer 23 stations through 12 neighborhoods.

MyNorthwest contributed to this report.

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