As we reported earlier this week, the proposed extension of the First Hill-Pioneer Square streetcar to Aloha on Capitol Hill is currently unfunded, and city staffers see little reason to believe that the project will end up with extra money left over in its contingency fund.

But the streetcar extension faces another problem: Because the projected ridership on the Aloha extension is so low---extending the line from Denny to Aloha on Broadway would add fewer than 3,000 riders---the addition would not be eligible for federal funds under the New Starts or Small Starts programs. That means the city would have to seek funding in the form of smaller federal grants or come up with money from the city itself. The city has estimated that the extension will cost about $20 million.

Meanwhile, as Sound Transit's board prepares to adopt a measure accelerating a $2 million spend on a study of high-capacity transit between downtown and Ballard tomorrow, the city's contribution to that same study is stuck in limbo. Although the city has money to do early design work on the First Hill streetcar ($900,000 from the feds and another $300,000 in city dollars), the city council eliminated another $700,000 Mayor Mike McGinn proposed spending to study transit to Ballard during its budget process this year.

Moreover, they also placed another $800,000 under a budget proviso---stipulating that it can only be spent once the council is "satisfied that the First Hill Streetcar can be completed" without additional city funding, and that the mayor has come up with a plan for extending the streetcar to Aloha.

"The proviso would have to be lifted before we could move forward," the city's streetcar planner, Ethan Melone, says.