• City continues to demand answers on Seattle streetcar

    By: MyNorthwest

    Updated:

    SEATTLE - 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.

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