SEATTLE - The federal government could chip in millions to help tackle some of Western Washington's transportation issues, but the question remains how to pay for the rest.
One project is a streetcar through the center of the city that would connect the existing South Lake Union and First Hill lines.
Tracks would run down First Avenue, making stops near Pike Place Market, Colman Dock and Pioneer Square.
Federal money would be just one piece of the puzzle. The total cost of the project would cost $135 million. President Obama's $75 million proposed budget boost won't pay for it all. The local match will include $6.8 million in previously appropriated funds, $17.8 million in utility funded improvements, and $34.4 million in City Capital Improvement Program funds. The city also previously received a $900,000 Federal Transit Administration (FTA) grant. Pending congressional appropriation of Small Starts Grant funding, the city will work with FTA to complete an agreement for these grant funds.
"Generally when you put together a project like this, it's several branches of government. So there will have to be local match,” said Mayor Ed Murray.
Some Seattle leaders see the Center City Streetcar as a way to give people an alternative way of transit through the heart of downtown.
"We need that piece to connect those neighborhoods, and you see in cities around the world this is one of the ways you connect neighborhoods: light rail, subways, streetcars, buses,” Murray said.
But some have expressed concern that running a line down First Avenue is not the way to go.
"A streetcar on First Avenue will duplicate bus service,” said Michael Brunson, who was working downtown. "I think the streetcar on First Avenue would be a play thing for the yuppies like the south lake Union trolley."
The project could be a reality in 2018. Even the $75 million from President Obama's budget isn't a sure bet. Congress has to pass the budget first. Mayor Murray said city officials will wait to see if the city will ask business and residents to help contribute
"Those are possibilities that we would meet with the business owners and the residents to decide that they would engage in voluntarily committing a fee,” Murray said. “But we're going to wait until we see if the federal money comes through before we start those conversations."
Several business owners said Wednesday the city should think twice before asking people to pay for the line. They want to see solid numbers about whether it'd be worth everyone's while.
"I'm lacking the information I need to make the decision. I don't think businesses should have to pay for something that might help us out,” said DJ Mar at Eco-Elements. "Have you done the research? Have you asked the people that might take those cable cars which businesses they're going to frequent?"
Other western Washington projects made it into the president's budget. The Lynnwood Link Extension that will extend light rail from Northgate up to Mountlake Terrace and Lynnwood could receive $1.2 billion.
Plus the second line of Swift, Snohomish County's bus rapid transit system that will run from the Boeing Everett Factory through Mill Creek to Canyon Park, could receive $43 million.