In Mayor Mike McGinn's letter to City Council last week recommending the Broadway Streetcar option, the mayor wrote that one his next priorities associated with the project was "extending the First Hill Streetcar to the north end of Broadway, to support the economic revitalization of Broadway and improve neighborhood access to the Capitol Hill light rail station."
The bigger question for Capitol Hill residents is, will the city back up its recommendation with the estimated $750,000 needed to ensure an Aloha Street extension is shovel ready? And can it happen now-ish?
"If we're going to build it, let's build it right," says Tony Russo, who designed the Capitol Hill Community Council's kickass Broadway streetcar proposal, and has lobbied the city hard to extend the streetcar to the end of Broadway Avenue. "We need cycletracks and the extension, and we need them both now." The Capitol Hill Community Council has been fighting to get an Aloha Street extension back on Seattle Department of Transportation's agenda since it was cut due to the project's budget constraints. An Aloha extension would cost an estimated $20 million dollars to build.
However, the Capitol Hill Community Council says this $20 million dollars isn't pressing—the city has several years to come up with the money while it works on the main leg of the streetcar, and, as Russo put it, "Obama's throwing money at streetcars right now." Their concern is funding the $750,000 preliminary engineering study and environmental review, which they say needs to be completed by June of this year when SDOT and Sound Transit finalize contract agreements for the streetcar line. Currently, the scope of the contract is written to terminate construction of the streetcar at Broadway and East John Street, at the light rail station.
They say if SDOT alters the scope of the streetcar contract with Sound Transit so that it can extend beyond the light rail station, and if the city comes up with $20 million before 2013, the Aloha extension could be tacked on to the current Broadway Streetcar project.
While SDOT is currently looking into funding sources for an Aloha Street extension, it's clear that the city doesn't believe that funding for a study must be secured before June (when the contracts are completed). "We're not aware of any deadline," says SDOT spokesman Rick Sheridan. "The nice thing about the streetcar system, we can make additions to it relatively easily, whenever."
Would it hurt the city to spend $750,000 for an extension it wants to build eventually? As proposed, the streetcar is coming in $7 million under budget, which, it would seem, gives the city enough money to study an extended streetcar now.