• New effort to bring vintage trolleys back to Seattle streets

    By: Graham Johnson

    Updated:

    There's a new push to bring back a piece of Seattle history.

    A fundraising campaign is underway that could lead to the return of the vintage trolleys that ran along the waterfront for more than 20 years.

    Friends of the Benson Trolleys is trying to $28,000 by the end of the month through a Kickstarter campaign to fully fund a study into how the nearly century-old trolleys might run on the same tracks as Seattle's modern streetcars, which will soon expand to First Avenue.

    "These ones are pretty sleek and cool but the technology is not that different," said Don Blakeney, a leader in the effort, as he stood beside a South Lake Union Streetcar.

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    The old trolleys run on the same gauge of track at about the same speed, but might need modifications for voltage, boarding on both sides, and wheelchair accessibility.

    City Council leaders building out the new streetcar network sound positive about the concept.

    "Bringing them back into play, I think it's a great idea," said Andrew Glass-Hastings of the Seattle Department of Transportation.

    City council member George Benson fought for years to bring the streetcars to Seattle from Australia.

    They ran along the waterfront from 1982 to 2005, when construction of the Olympic Sculpture Park displaced the trolley maintenance facility.

    It was supposed to be a 2-year closure, but the trolleys never ran again.

    Three are now in St. Louis.

    The two stored in Anacortes are the focus of the fundraising effort.

    The city is not providing any money and officials say the old streetcars would have to meet modern safety and operational standards to join the new system.

    The feasibility study will figure out how much that might cost.

    The next step would be a fundraising campaign to retrofit the old trolleys.

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