Kelly O

Two weeks after the Seattle Times revealed that the downtown streetcar project could cost 50 percent more than the city previously said, Mayor Jenny Durkan has stopped the project.

The project, currently underway, would expand the streetcar system by running through downtown to connect existing routes in South Lake Union and First Hill. Unlike the First Hill Streetcar, it would run largely in its own lane. Following the Times report, Durkan requested an independent review of the project.

A "preliminary assessment" has found that the project will face significant budget shortfalls, Durkan's office announced today. So, the mayor is halting the project "except for work on seismically vulnerable water mains."

"The City of Seattle has a critical obligation to spend taxpayer dollars wisely and an equal obligation to transparency," Durkan said in a statement. “There are too many questions about the true costs of this project and the risks to taxpayers, which is why we must put the brakes on this project."

Council Members Mike O'Brien, who chairs the council's transportation committee, and Sally Bagshaw, who represents downtown, agreed with Durkan in a statement.

In a letter published by the Times, Senior Deputy Mayor Mike Fong told council members the project faces a $23 million shortfall and total cost of more than $200 million (up from earlier estimates of $150 million).

Fong blamed rising design and construction costs and estimating errors. The full review, which will involve the City Attorney's Office, will take 60 to 90 days.