Yesterday, the Sound Transit Executive Committee recommended a $2 million budget addition to study high-capacity mass transit from downtown to Ballard in 2012, instead of maybe three years from now, as was originally proposed.
This is fantastic news! Regardless of if the full Sound Transit board approves the $2 million Executive Committee recommendation on December 15, millions have already been pledged. Specifically, the City has budgeted an additional $2 million for studying and planning (including $900,000 from a federal transportation planning grant, a $300,000 SDOT match of the federal grant, and $800,000 from the approved 2012 budget).
Next year, Sound Transit would begin studying the feasibility of adding a streetcar line from downtown to Ballard, which route to use, and possible funding sources for the project.
As you can see, this giant planning leap forward is the result of local, regional, and federal funding and cooperation. Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn has been playing nice with Sound Transit, and it shows: “Some of our work to collaborate with Sound Transit reached daylight. There's a lot more work to be done, but I think we're making good progress,” McGinn noted after the Sound Transit Executive Committee meeting.
In an article by the Daily Commerce Journal (behind a paywall—sorry), Seattle City Council President Richard Conlin characterized his collaboration with the mayor in the article as "cooperating with caution," but that "the bottom line is we know we have to improve transportation."
While this news certainly calls for cautious optimism, the collaboration is a pretty tangible sign that a streetcar to Ballard is actually going to happen, and that our leaders might actually fight for it.
UPDATE: McGinn spokesman Aaron Pickus clarifies that a streetcar is but one of the options considered for the downtown-Ballard corridor: "The corridor is identified in the Transit Master Plan as a high priority for high capacity transit, but we need to do the planning first before assigning a specific mode for the corridor."