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Plans for new streetcar in central downtown resurrected in Seattle's 2022 budget proposal

The more than $280 million proposed streetcar was initially approved by the city council in 2014.

Editor's note: The above video on the Center City Connector funding originally aired on Aug. 12, 2019.

SEATTLE - Plans for a troubled transit project originally approved by the Seattle City Council in 2014 were revived in the 2022 budget proposal.

The estimated $285 million Center City Connector (C3) streetcar was conceived as part of the One Center City, connecting the South Lake Union and First Hill streetcar lines via a 1.3-mile route mostly along 1st Avenue.

The streetcar, backed by organizations like the Downtown Seattle Association, was officially put on pause due to the pandemic in June 2020 and the loss in city revenue as well as funding from its partners.

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However, movement on C3 had been stalled for years after the estimated cost rose more than $100 million from its original appraisal and many questioned the true benefit of the route itself.

For instance, Councilmember Lisa Herbold said she was “very skeptical” that the streetcar project would be the best use of the transportation funds in January 2019.

During a budget meeting on Friday, she also questioned the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) Director Sam Zimbabwe on where renewed funding for the project would come from.

Zimbabwe said that SDOT’s experience in showing project readiness in order to obtain federal grants gave him confidence that acquiring the necessary money for the project would be possible.

Another potential hitch in the streetcar project came when the federal Department of Transportation announced an audit of four SDOT projects, including C3.

The audit was launched in 2019 after the Office of Inspector General (OIG) “received several complaints concerning federally funded projects for the City of Seattle Department of Transportation.”

A spokesperson with the OIG said the audit is still ongoing with a final report expected in the first half of 2022.

The current budget proposal is calling on more than $2 million to go toward a project review to update the city’s plan for C3 and any costs associated with it.