LOCAL NEWS

City continues to demand answers on Seattle streetcar

Jul 16, 2018, 5:54 AM | Updated: 5:56 am
Seattle streetcar, seattle streetcars...
(SDOT)
(SDOT)

When Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan halted all streetcar construction in March, she demanded a review of the project and wanted it by June. The public has yet to see the results of that audit, though the mayor has been briefed by contractor KMPG. Questions remain, so the auditor was sent back to answer them.

RELATED: Everett was first to bury its streetcars

In the meantime, the status of the current Seattle streetcar project — connecting two existing lines — remains in limbo. Senior Deputy Mayor Michael Fong wrote as much to the Seattle Streetcar Coalition in a June 28 letter explaining the situation. Fong notes the many issues facing construction that may add up to permanently halting the project. The mayor is even looking into other transit options, instead of the City Center Connector project.

“As part of this briefing, the mayor asked for further analysis on technical assumptions, ridership projections, operations and capital costs, funding options, as well as more detailed information for additional alternatives for providing transit connections moving forward,” Fong wrote.

The mayor expanded on this in a recent interview, saying the project may never be completed.

“That still might not happen, we are looking at options,” Mayor Durkan told KUOW. “There may be other options available to connect those two things, that won’t be a continuous route.”

It’s not the first time such sentiment has come from city hall. In April, Interim Director of the Seattle Department of Transportation Goran Sparrman told the city council that it could take until October to determine if the Seattle streetcar project can continue.

“Frankly, this is an example of probably … how a project perhaps should not have been managed,” Sparrman said at the time. “And council should be aware that I’m looking at project management overall inside the department.”

City Center Connector

The City Center Connector project aims to link together two existing Seattle streetcar lines — South Lake Union at one end and Capitol Hill/First Hill at the other. It’s a 1.2-mile track through the heart of Seattle. But as the project’s costs continued to surge, the mayor hit the brakes in March.

Mayor Durkan recently told KUOW that she wants the auditor to look further into issues, beyond the numbers.

“For example, one of the things we know is that the new streetcars, as designed, are longer than the current ones we have, and heavier,” Durkan said. “They won’t fit in the maintenance barns, for example, we are not sure if they will fit on the gauge of rail that’s there.”

Letter to Seattle Streetcar Coalition

Mayor Durkan has also noted how the construction could affect businesses in the area. In his letter to the Seattle Streetcar Coalition, Fong said:

Since taking office, Mayor Durkan has met and heard from several Pioneer Square businesses regarding transportation challenges downtown, especially as it relates to the streetcar. She has heard about the real disruption to the neighborhood and the toll that construction has taken on residents and businesses. She has many concerns about both the fiscal impacts as well as the impacts on businesses.

Durkan has also said she wants fresh ridership estimates to determine how many people the Seattle streetcar will actually move.

Seattle streetcar costs

As The Seattle Times reported, SDOT continues to struggle with streetcar operating costs. Seattle’s 2017 streetcar budget was $500,000 short in the end, primarily due to the South Lake Union line. The streetcars were originally budgeted for $6.2 million that year.

In total, SDOT overspent by $1.6 million in 2017. The city says that it had difficulty hiring engineers and other staff for Move Seattle projects, and that led to the overrun. Also, budget forecasts were not tight enough. The city council has passed legislation to retroactively approve paying off the over-budget costs.

This was just the most recent funding woe that SDOT and the Seattle streetcar have faced, however.

  • The City Center Connector project was originally estimated to cost $150 million. But that was updated to $177 million in 2017.
  • In March 2018, the streetcar project bill was again updated to more than $200 million — a $23 million shortfall.
  • King County Metro also pointed out in March 2018 that SDOT’s streetcar budget was short by about $8 million, or 50 percent.

Fong wrote in his letter that the mayor has also asked city departments to double check their project numbers.

… the Mayor asked for a final technical review by City departments including City Budget Office, SDOT, Seattle Public Utilities, and Seattle City Light to verify material costs and labor, utility relocations, and project timelines for a series of options to ensure the final report is accurate for taxpayers.

Local News

crime blotter...
Darren Dedo

The Crime Blotter: Two people arrested for statewide dealership car thefts

Detectives recovered a stolen BMW, a stolen gun, various key fobs, and suspected stolen credit cards and IDs.
17 hours ago
leaf...
MyNorthwest Staff

Seattle just got one step closer to banning gas-powered leaf blowers

The Seattle City Council voted out of committee Friday a resolution that sunsets City and privately owned gas-powered leaf blowers within city limits.
17 hours ago
(Department of Corrections)...
Associated Press

Snohomish County prison worker charged with unsafe gun storage after suicide

Prosecutors said a state prisons employee didn’t properly secure the gun her 12-year-old son used to die by suicide, leading to a first-of-its-kind criminal charge in Snohomish County.
17 hours ago
texts...
Hanna Scott

King County prosecutor requests criminal probe of missing texts of former mayor, police chief

Texts of public officials are public records and must be retained for at least two years. Knowingly destroying them before then is a felony under state law.
17 hours ago
kitsap...
MyNorthwest Staff

Daughter discovers parents violently murdered in Kitsap County

Kitsap County deputies are investigating what they say is a double homicide in Olalla.
17 hours ago
(Getty Images)...
KIRO Newsradio Newsdesk

KIRO Newsradio Headlines: Unsafe levels of bacteria found on Lake WA beaches

The KIRO Newsradio Newsdesk gives you the news you may have missed on the afternoon of Friday, August 19.
17 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Work at Zum Services...

Seattle Public Schools announces three-year contract with Zum

Seattle Public Schools just announced a three-year contract with a brand-new company to the Pacific Northwest to assist with their student transportation: Zum.
Swedish Cyberknife 900x506...

June is Men’s Health Month: Here’s Why It’s Important To Speak About Your Health

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, men in the United States, on average, die five years earlier than women.
...

Anacortes – A Must Visit Summertime Destination

While Anacortes is certainly on the way to the San Juan Islands (SJI), it is not just a destination to get to the ferry… Anacortes is a destination in and of itself!
...

Ready for your 2022 Alaskan Adventure with Celebrity Cruises?

Celebrity Cruises SPONSORED — A round-trip Alaska cruise from Seattle is an amazing treat for you and a loved one. Not only are you able to see and explore some of the most incredible and visually appealing natural sights on the planet, but you’re also able to relax and re-energize while aboard a luxury cruise […]
...

Compassion International Is Determined to ‘Fill’ a Unique Type of Football ‘Stadium’

Compassion International SPONSORED — During this fall’s football season—and as the pandemic continues to impact the entire globe—one organization has been urging caring individuals to help it “fill” a unique type of “stadium” in order to make a lasting difference in the lives of many. Compassion International’s distinctive Fill the Stadium (FtS, fillthestadium.com) initiative provides […]
...

What are the Strongest, Greenest, Best Windows?

Lake Washington Windows & Doors SPONSORED — Fiberglass windows are an excellent choice for window replacement due to their fundamental strength and durability. There is no other type of window that lasts as long as fiberglass; so why go with anything else? Fiberglass windows are 8x stronger than vinyl, lower maintenance than wood, more thermally […]
City continues to demand answers on Seattle streetcar