Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Seattle’s First Hill streetcar plan inches forward

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The Seattle City Council's Transportation Committee Wednesday unanimously approved a proposed First Hill modern streetcar project, and even seeks to extend the proposed route with surplus funds if construction comes in below budget.

The proposed streetcar route would run along Broadway, an alignment supported by both the Seattle Department of Transportation and Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn.

Funding for the project remains in doubt, however, in light of budget constraints facing Sound Transit. In addition, Sound Transit’s Board of Directors has expressed reluctance to expand the scope of the plan beyond what’s been approved by voters.

The route, if established, would not be Seattle's first; the 1.3-mile South Lake Union Streetcar debuted in December 2007, linking its namesake neighborhood with downtown.

Many supporters of the First Hill streetcar plan anticipate acquiring equipment from Clackamas, Ore.-based United Streetcar, LLC, a subsidiary of Oregon Iron Works attempting to establish itself as a long-term U.S. supplier of streetcars to meet anticipated domestic demand. United Streetcar currently has orders from Portland, Ore., and from Tucson, Ariz.