Q13 FOX Season of Giving

Oops? Questions raised as to whether 10 new streetcars ordered by Seattle will fit current tracks

SEATTLE — Ten new streetcars that the city of Seattle ordered at a cost of $52 million are heavier, longer and wider than the current streetcars and it’s unclear if they’ll work on the current tracks or fit in the maintenance barn, The Seattle Times reported Tuesday, citing Mayor Jenny Durkan’s office.

Durkan stopped the streetcar expansion project in March and ordered an independent review after the Seattle Times reported that the costs to operate the new system could be 50 percent higher than the Seattle Department of Transportation had publicly stated.

According to the Times, the mayor’s office said Tuesday the review by independent consultant KPMG found a possible “additional capital shortfall” for the expansion.

The mayor’s office said:

“As a result of uncovering the challenges with the vehicle contract, a series of complex technical and engineering questions have been raised.  While these challenges became a general factor as part of KPMG’s review, a more detailed engineering review is critical to understanding the cost and feasibility of the project. Many of these additional questions could have further impacts on the capital costs of this project:

  • How does the increased weight of the new cars impact the current system? Can the full streetcar route handle the additional weight of the cars?
  • How does the length of the new cars interact with the current system?
  • How does the width and length of the new cars impact the maintenance barn?
  • Does the width of the new cars impact the current system?
  • How does the size of the cars impact the design of the proposed stations as well as current stations?
  • Are the new vehicles compatible with the current track gauge? If not, what options, costs and disruptions to service would there be for retrofitting the tracks?”

The mayor’s office said the KPMG’s final report should be completed in August.