Headed downtown? Consider the streetcar debate — City Council votes on resolution July 21

By Daria Kroupoderova
Northwest Asian Weekly

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Street car rails on Jackson. (Photo by George Liu/NWAW)

There is concern in the International District (ID) about council member Nick Licata’s request to delay the vote on a resolution dealing with the Center City Connector (CCC), a streetcar route that would connect the South Lake Union and First Hill streetcars. This valuable extension would bring life back to the ID.

“The construction has been extremely damaging to business in the neighborhood,” said Chinatown-International District Business Improvement Area Executive Director Don Blakeney.

The concern is that the city has assured everyone that the ID will be connected to downtown and would bring in tourists and workers to the area, promising a boost in business and economy.

“The other thing that this neighborhood had to swallow a couple years ago was the 8th avenue connector,” Blakeney said. “Not only did we get a line where it brings people in streetcars through the neighborhood but they also put the main maintenance facility in the neighborhood…and they didn’t notify us before they decided to do that. They, just with a stroke of a pen, put that transit facility here in the neighborhood.”

Some council members, including Licata, now do not want the CCC and instead want the current streetcar routes to be stand-alone routes. Furthermore, Licata suggested using electric trolley bus services instead to cut costs. This current bus system is not tourist-friendly. It is not unusual to see a confused tourist pondering a complicated bus schedule. Using trolley busses would not bring more business to the ID, an area that needs a boost in the economy.

The CCC has received a stamp of approval from the Seattle Department of Transportation through the Connector Transit Study Locally Preferred Alternative. The mayor has also shown support through the resolution he sent to city council. The project has a strong chance of getting about $75 million in federal funding from the New Starts program, however the money can only apply to streetcar work. The city would have to match that with about $35 million of its own money in order for the project to happen.

Also, the Seattle Streetcar Coalition, a group of over 35 stakeholders from different parts of Seattle, sent a letter to City Council on July 14, showing support and urging them to go forward with the CCC. One of their arguments cited the history of Seattle. In the late 1920s “there was also a main streetcar line on 1st Avenue, a critical artery connecting neighborhoods to a vibrant downtown,” the letter stated. Back then one of the main ways to pick where someone lived is by the proximity of streetcar and bus access.

What Licata doesn’t seem to understand is how much the ID is counting on this project. Let him and other council members know that this project is important to the ID’s businesses and neighborhoods before City Council votes on the resolution on July 21. (end)

Daria Kroupoderova can be reached at info@nwasianweekly.com.

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