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City of Seattle and Sound Transit Break Ground on the First Hill Streetcar

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Today the City of Seattle and Sound Transit, joined by community members from across the city, broke ground on Seattle's newest streetcar line - the First Hill Streetcar.

To be constructed by the City with funding provided by Sound Transit, the streetcar line will allow riders to easily travel between neighborhoods on Capitol Hill, First Hill, Yesler Terrace, the Central Area, the Chinatown/International District and Pioneer Square, and better access Link Light rail service. The First Hill Streetcar will be operational by the spring of 2014, connecting thousands of riders daily with the places they live, work and socialize.

"Today's groundbreaking is an important step in the recent momentum to expand rail in our city," said Mayor Mike McGinn. "Our updated Transit Master Plan shows that we need to do better to connect Seattle's neighborhoods with high quality transit. And we are doing just that with projects like the First Hill Streetcar and planning to connect our streetcars through Downtown. I thank Sound Transit and City staff for all of their work, and the public for their vision when they voted to approve the Sound Transit 2 measure that makes these projects possible."

Mayor McGinn, who serves on the Sound Transit Board, was joined by fellow Board members, members of the Seattle City Council and local community leaders in kicking off the construction. The groundbreaking took place at the site of a future streetcar station that will serve Seattle University, Swedish Medical Center, Virginia Mason Medical Center and the growing First Hill residential neighborhood. The stop will be one of 10 stations along a 2.5-mile route that will serve employment centers, educational institutions, entertainment and sports venues, and residential neighborhoods while enhancing access to regional rail service like Link Light rail and Sounder trains.

"The First Hill streetcar will be an important part of our regional transit system, connecting people who live and work throughout King County with outstanding institutions of healthcare and higher education," said Sound Transit Board member and King County Executive Dow Constantine. "This line will also provide the foundation for future growth at Yesler Terrace and south Broadway."

The First Hill Streetcar will connect the current Link Light rail station in the Chinatown/International District with the future rail station on Capitol Hill. The line is being built by the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) in partnership with Sound Transit. Sound Transit had initially planned an underground light rail stop on First Hill but abandoned the idea because of costs and risks associated with a deep station.

"From the moment we concluded building a deep-mined light rail station on First Hill was too risky, I strongly advocated for this streetcar line as a way to provide vital access to and from a regional light rail system that will stretch more than 50 miles by 2023," said Sound Transit Board member and King County Council member Larry Phillips. "We made the First Hill Streetcar a top priority in shaping the Sound Transit 2 Plan, and today I couldn't be more thrilled that we are about to watch our dream become a reality."

The line will be constructed by Stacy and Witbeck, the firm that previously built the City's South Lake Union line, and is estimated to cost $132.8 million.

"Many residents and business owners along the streetcar line, from Pioneer Square to Broadway, have told me that they are eager for operations to begin," stated Seattle City Councilmember Tom Rasmussen. "The streetcar is intended to improve transportation and to attract people to visit and shop in our neighborhood business districts."

Once operational, approximately 3,000 riders each day are expected to use the First Hill line. It will provide service from 5 a.m. to 1 a.m. Monday through Saturday and 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Sundays/holidays, running with 10-minute headways during peak/daytime hours. A trip from Pioneer Square to the future Link Light rail station on Capitol Hill is anticipated to take just under 20 minutes.

"For 101 years now, Swedish has recognized the importance of accessible transportation options for our employees, patients and their health," said Dan Dixon, Vice President of External Affairs, Swedish Health Services. "The First Hill Streetcar is a brilliant continuance of creative transportation for our city. Elegant, quiet, environmentally friendly-we believe that all of us on First Hill will benefit for a generation from this mass-transit addition to our neighborhood."

The line's six streetcar vehicles will be made through a partnership between Inekon, a Czech Republic firm, and Pacifica, a Seattle-based manufacturing firm. With Pacifica assembling the vehicles locally, this partnership will provide approximately 20 living-wage manufacturing jobs in Seattle for this project. It also creates the opportunity for streetcar assembly in Seattle for other agencies nationwide, which could provide additional local jobs.

A facility for storing, cleaning and maintaining First Hill Streetcar vehicles will be located at the City of Seattle's Charles Street yard at Seventh Avenue S and S Charles Street. The facility will serve as the center for First Hill streetcar operations with reporting, dispatch, streetcar maintenance, system maintenance and administration. Construction of the facility will begin in May 2012.

For more information about the First Hill Streetcar, visit the project website at