First Hill streetcar project gets under way



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Posted on January 25, 2011 at 8:54 AM

Updated Tuesday, Jan 25 at 2:41 PM

SEATTLE -- Preparations begin on the First Hill streetcar line project Tuesday morning, a major traffic project that will affect several Seattle neighborhoods and its drivers.

SDOT is building a light rail that will run from Pioneer Square to Broadway via First Hill. The streetcar will make stops in the International District, Central District, First Hill and Capitol Hill.

Seattle Department Of Transportation (SDOT) crews will begin drilling soil samples on Broadway Avenue and East Spruce. Parking is already tough to find on First Hill near many hospitals, and it's going to get tougher during construction. Driving in the area will also be heavily impacted for the next several years.

But SDOT and hospital officials say it's a change for the better because the line will connect several neighborhoods.

"It will streamline the number of employees coming and going to work, eliminate single car occupancy, diminish the amount of parking rates up on the hill right now," said Sherry Williams, Swedish Medical Center.

The First Hill streetcar will stop on Broadway across Swedish Medical Center and Seattle University. Williams says the hospital is already trying to educate patients and employees about the traffic impacts.

"Safety will be one of our key concerns and to be able to provide key entry and exits points for our emergency equipment for our patients and for our employees," said Williams.

Traffic will be impacted at times to make way for this $125 million project. Parking and travel lane closures will be limited along the following streets to the hours of 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. during the week and will be for periods of 2-3 hours at most:

• E. Howell St. from Broadway to Nagle Pl.
• Broadway from Pike to Union.
• Marion Street from Broadway to Boylston.
• E. Columbia St. from Broadway to approximately mid-block between Broadway & E. Cherry St.
• Broadway from Cherry to James.
• Broadway from E. Spruce St. for 140 feet (to the north).
• E. Yesler Way from 12th Ave. S. to 13th Ave. S.
• 14th Ave. S from S. Main St. for 140 feet (to the north).
• Jackson Street from I-5 to 10th Ave. S.
• Jackson Street from 5th Ave. S. to mid-block between 5th Ave. & 6th Ave.
• 8th Ave. S. from King to Jackson.

SDOT says it will try to minimize traffic and keep traffic flowing.

"Some of the things we will do is build one direction at a time to keep traffic moving and sequentially, in small pieces for example, maybe work 2 maybe 3 blocks at a time," said Ethan Melone, SDOT Rail Transit Manager.

Drilling for soil samples starts at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday. Construction will start in the fall of 2011. The First Hill streetcar is expected to be up and running in 2013.