Seattle's delayed, over budget streetcar project is closer to resuming following a committee recommendation Tuesday.
The Sustainability and Transportation Committee voted in favor of spending $9 million for engineering and design work. The request from the Department of Transportation is an interfund loan that awaits city council approval.
The $9 million will be used for station platform design, track modification on the existing lines, and structural analysis modifications to Jackson Street bridge, streetcar operations and the maintenance facility. Some of the money will also be used for a review of the National Environmental Policy Act.
Once completed, the project will connect the city's South Lake Union line and First Hill line.
In March 2018, Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan halted work on the project after ordering an independent review.
In January, Durkan recommended the city move forward with the project.
When Mayor Durkan announced the project would resume, she blamed previous management for failing to do "proper due diligence to account for all costs." She said the project was not set up for long-term success. She noted that she is confident the city understands the "true costs" of the streetcar project.
The original budget for the project in late 2016 was estimated at $143.2 million. In late 2016, that estimate rose to $177 million. In March 2018, the estimated cost of the project grew to approximately $197 million. It continued to balloon from there.
In addition to the rising costs of the project itself, a significant difference in the estimated annual operating and maintenance costs were discovered. Depending on revenue and contributions from Sound Transit and King County Metro, operating costs will be somewhere between $18 million and $19 million; $2 million to $4 million higher than originally anticipated.
Complicating the issue further, a review of the project released by the mayor's office found the new streetcars may be too big for the city's existing tracks. The review found the new streetcars were nine feet longer and 20,000 pounds heavier than the current streetcars, and would swing wider and have problems navigating corners.
An engineering analysis on the integration of the proposed new streetcar vehicles with existing and future rail lines found that modifications would cost up to $17.4 million.