Mayor Jenny Durkan Requests Independent Review of Seattle’s Streetcar Expenses

Seattle is currently in the midst of a massive update to the streetcar system, which will link the city’s two existing lines at South Lake Union and First Hill, moving past Pike Place Market and some of the most congested areas within the Emerald City. Most recently, SDOT has come under fire regarding the project’s expenses, as a report indicates that city officials may have underestimated the costs to run the system upon its completion in 2020. Seattle Times reports that in response to concern, Mayor Jenny Durkan has requested an independent review of the budget to be completed within the next 90 days.

“The city must clearly understand the capital costs required to complete the construction of the Center City Connector and the ongoing expenses required for its subsequent operations,” Anthony Auriemma, director of legislative affairs, tells the Times. “SDOT will provide any data needed to support this work, but this will be an independent analysis conducted under the direction of the mayor,” he added

While the Federal Transit Administration projected annual operating costs of approximately $16 million, a recent King County Metro Transit report, which operates the streetcars under a contract with SDOT, said it would cost $24 million per year.

The review will both analyze the cost to construct and run the streetcar system, and “will also seek to determine how reliable current cost estimates are, how much has already been spent on the project and what funding sources remain for the project,” in order to provide a clear, unbiased outlook.

As the Times previously reported, the project has not moved forward without some contestation in the city council, as the start of its work in autumn 2017 brought opposition and concerns over budget and ridership estimates. SDOT projections indicate that the 5,200 daily riders over the two existing cars will expand to 22,000 when the project is completed in 2020.