At tomorrow morning's meeting of the city council transportation committee, council members will discuss a proposal to extend the route of the proposed Capitol Hill/First Hill streetcar into Pioneer Square, a response to Pioneer Square businesses and residents who argued that the neighborhood would benefit from the extra transportation option, especially during construction of the Alaskan Way tunnel. (Sound Transit will pay for the streetcar, but the city will operate it).

Although the initial proposal showed the streetcar running along a "turnback loop"  from the International District tunnel station at Fifth and Jackson to Second and Main and back, planners subsequently proposed truncating the line at Fifth and Jackson, noting that the city couldn't meet its contractual obligation to Sound Transit to keep trains on ten-minute headways (the amount of time between arrivals) on the longer route.

However, the compromise proposal the council will consider this week would solve the headway problem, by lengthening the route one block west to First Ave. S. and eliminating the turnback loop.

The new proposal would use up all of the $132.8 million Sound Transit said it was willing to spend to build the streetcar, meaning that there will be no money left to fund the proposed northern streetcar extension to Aloha, on north Capitol Hill. (Seattle Department of Transportation spokesman Rick Sheridan attributed the higher cost to the cost of the streetcar vehicles themselves, not the Pioneer Square extension). In theory, if the city doesn't spend the entire $132.8 million on the streetcar to Pioneer Square, it could use the surplus to pay for the Aloha extension---if, and only if, Sound Transit agrees to give the city the money.

Under the original proposal, about $7 million would have been left over to fund the Aloha extension, which the Seattle Department of Transportation estimates would cost a total of about $20 million. The extension would have also gotten funding from the $60 car-tab fee, which flopped at the polls in November.

As for how the city plans to pay for the extension now, Sheridan would say only that "the Aloha extension is not currently funded, and that "decisions about whether and how to fund it would be made at the council and executive level."
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