Seattle moving forward with Center City Connector streetcar project

Posted on September 18, 2019 by By Jeanne Clark

First Hill Streetcar, Yesler Way.
Jeanne Clark
First Hill Streetcar, Yesler Way.Jeanne Clark
In August, the Seattle City Council appropriated $9 million so that we could move forward with essential design work to advance the Center City Connector project.

With this critical funding, we’re excited to be moving this transit project forward so that millions of people will have the opportunity to use a complete streetcar system providing easy connections between South Lake Union, the waterfront, Pioneer Square, Chinatown-International District, and First Hill.

Here are the key next steps moving forward with the streetcar project:

In April 2017, we entered into a contract with CAF USA to build 10 streetcar vehicles. In March 2018, Mayor Durkan ordered an independent review of the streetcar project budget and we issued a stop-work-order to halt production of these vehicles before they were built, while we worked to ensure the project had strong financial footing.

Now that we have a better understanding of the new project timeline, we’re ready to cancel the old streetcar vehicle contract and move forward.

Resuming work now under the old vehicle contract could have significantly increased project costs due to our new project timeline.

First Hill Streetcar up close.
Jeanne Clark.
First Hill Streetcar up close. Jeanne Clark.
The City has the flexibility to terminate the contract at any time which may save the City considerable money in the long run.

Seeking a new vehicle contract is the most fiscally responsible option for Seattle taxpayers and will offer several cost-saving opportunities:

  • A new bidding process will give companies a chance to propose plans to build vehicles that are closer to the size and weight of our existing streetcars.
  • A new contract will align with our current streetcar design timeline and eliminate financial risk and uncertainty associated with the old vehicle contract schedule.

Today, we informed CAF USA that we’re terminating the old vehicle contract and are preparing to move forward with seeking a new vehicle contract.

In the coming months, we’ll be updating the design specifications for streetcar vehicles to take into account the existing vehicle market in the U.S. and some of our system’s specialized needs. Once this work has been done, we’ll move forward by issuing an updated Request for Proposals for streetcar procurement.

We’ll also be moving forward with the essential engineering and facilities design work with the resources approved by City Council last month.

This work will help inform the new vehicle procurement and include a variety of necessary steps that align with the potential vehicle design specifications, such as making sure the streetcar platforms, maintenance facility, and roadway structures are ready for the new streetcars because many of the streetcar vehicles currently being manufactured are longer and heavier than our current streetcars.

Passengers preparing to on-board the South Lake Union Streetcar.
Passengers preparing to on-board the South Lake Union Streetcar.SDOT
We’re preparing to search for a consultant to help complete this facilities engineering work and will release a request for qualifications for engineering consultants in the coming weeks.

Moving forward with engineering work will reduce risk and ensure we’ll be ready to comprehensively and responsibly deliver the entirety of the Center City Connector.

The additional design work will also be essential to help secure the funds prioritized for this project from the Federal Transit Administration (FTA).

Actions we’ll be taking over the next several months will help establish that we have a solid and dependable plan to finish building the streetcar and set us up for FTA’s approval of these federal funds.

This blog was originally posted by the Seattle Department of Transportation.

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