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Mayor candidates oppose 1st Avenue streetcar
Posted by Mike Lindblom
Here's one way to shave $130 million off the Alaskan Way Viaduct replacement.
Seattle mayoral candidates Joe Mallahan and Mike McGinn both said in recent interviews that they oppose a streetcar on First Avenue -- a 2.5-mile line that outgoing Mayor Greg Nickels included in last winter's agreement to build a highway tunnel, Sodo interchange, seawall, promenade and related items for $4.2 billion.
Nickels pledged that the city will find $930 million, including streetcar money.
McGinn said the first priority is to protect Metro bus service from recession-related service cuts, not build a streetcar.
He is seeking to halt the state's tunnel plan, and subsitute "surface-transit improvements," including work on Interstate 5, within the $2.4 billion state lawmakers already earmarked for viaduct replacement -- so there would be no city tax increases, he says. (One problem: the state Constitution requires state gas taxes to go toward highways.)
Streetcars are simply inefficient, Mallahan argued. "It is redundant to Metro bus service. Third Avenue [limited to buses and bicycles at peak times] is only two blocks away," he said.
Mallahan added that he would study and maybe oppose Sound Transit's future streetcar across First Hill and Capitol Hill -- even though it's funded by last fall's voter-approved Proposition 1. The line is Sound Transit's consolation prize to one of the state's most populated neighborhoods, after rising costs forced the transit board to cancel a First Hill light-rail station promised to voters back in 1996.
Not long ago, streetcar fever gripped the City Council, which voted 6-3 in December to endorse lines reaching Ballard, the University District, South Jackson Street and the Seattle Center-First Avenue corridor --- in addition to the existing South Lake Union and voter-approved First Hill lines.
Mallahan may be too late to slow the First Hill project. On Sept. 15, the City Council will start working on its agreement with Sound Transit, for the city to design and construct the route, said pro-streetcar Councilmember Jan Drago.
She also said the First Avenue line still makes "immense sense" because it can connect the SLU streetcar (which could be extended to First and Stewart) and the First Hill streetcar (next to the International District/Chinatown light-rail stop).
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