■ A major portion of Broadway is not expected to be serviced under the First Hill Streetcar’s cuurent plan. photo/JESSICA VAN GILDER
■ A major portion of Broadway is not expected to be serviced under the First Hill Streetcar’s cuurent plan. photo/JESSICA VAN GILDER
Though the First Hill Streetcar project was included in the mass transit system expansion ballot approved by voters in 2008, the original route was truncated to end at Denny Way instead of Aloha Street due to less funding.

An extension from Denny Way to Aloha would cost around $20 million, but without the extension, some argue the route is incomplete. The Capitol Hill Community Council (CHCC) launched a Capitol Hill Complete Streetcar Campaign in support of the extension earlier this year.

“We’ve been pleasantly surprised that there does seem to be so much consensus for it. It’s obvious to everyone in the community that stopping at Denny is stopping halfway through,” said CHCC member and former treasurer Tony Russo. “If you really know Capitol Hill, in order to have a project that makes sense, it would have to go to the north end of Broadway. That’s just the logical thing to do.”

Exploring options
Currently, Sound Transit is focused on designing the funded portion of the Streetcar, which will run from the International District to Capitol Hill. Construction is expected to start in fall 2011, and the route should be completed by mid-2014.

But “we are starting to explore options for funding the design of the extension,” said Ethan Melone, rail-transit manager for Seattle Department of Transportation.

At the very least, Melone and Russo want to obtain funding for the preliminary design work, which Melone estimates is about $1 million.

“One of our major pushes is convincing the city or Sound Transit to put up the funding for the design work,” Russo said. “If we can get preliminary engineering done, the project would be classified as shovel-ready, and we would be eligible to apply for federal grants to help fund construction and explore other funding sources.”

Extending farther?
There has been some talk of extending the streetcar farther north, toward St. Mark’s Cathedral or Volunteer Park, but, Russo said, the priority is on extending the route to Aloha, so that the north portion of the Broadway retail district gets incorporated.

The effort to raise funding for the preliminary design just started, so nothing has been raised yet, but the sooner the better, Melone said, so that plans for the extension can be integrated into the current project plan.

Apart from the extension, the CHCC wants the streetcar to be a catalyst for “reclaiming the street.” The proposal is to eliminate the center turn lane on Broadway except at major intersections and redesign the space for pedestrian and bicycle use.

“We want to recreate the public realm and make it a real place for people,” Russo said, “so we want to make sure we get the city to adopt that approach.”