The City of Seattle and Sound Transit have executed an agreement that includes expedited construction of a new streetcar line to link the city's First Hill neighborhood with Capitol Hill and the International District. The city will build and operate the new line, which is now expected to open in 2013 rather than 2016 as originally planned.
Sound Transit will cover the project's costs up to $132 million, and the city will take the lead on design, property acquisition and construction of the two-mile line connecting downtown Seattle, First Hill and the Capitol Hill light rail station. Sound Transit will cover operating costs when the line begins service.
The city plans to begin construction in 2012. The final route will be determined as part of the environmental review process over the next two years. The Sound Transit board included the streetcar line in the Sound Transit 2 expansion budget package after determining that a previously planned light rail station at Madison Street and Summit Avenue on First Hill would be too costly.
The new streetcar will serve major Seattle work centers, including Swedish Hospital, Virginia Mason Medical Center, Harborview Medical Center, Seattle University and Seattle Central Community College. The line will provide easy access to the Link light rail system that opened this summer and the Capitol Hill light rail station when University Link opens in 2016.
The First Hill line will be the second modern streetcar line in Seattle following the Sound Lake Union Streetcar line, which opened in December 2008.