By Michael Sarko
– The Capitol Hill Times -
Just beside the Swedish Medical Center campus on the corner of Broadway and Boylston, a collection of city officials, contractors and community figures broke ground on the First Hill Streetcar project Monday afternoon. The ceremony marked the beginning of a two-year construction project that will bring miles of streetcar track to some of Seattle’s most dense neighborhoods.
Mayor Mike McGinn served as the master of ceremonies, introducing the lawmakers and members of the community who marked the occasion with brief speeches and many thanks. Congressman Jim McDermott set the tone when he challenged his fellow speakers to spend less time at the lectern than he did, setting the bar at approximately two minutes. Rep. McDermott framed the city’s extensive, rail-based transit plan as a progressive measure in the same vein as many modern cities in Northern Europe, saying that people in Seattle will ride trains and streetcars “like they do in Stockholm, like they do in Amsterdam, like they do in Helsinki.”
Representatives of Stacy and Witbeck, the general contractors that built the South Lake Union Streetcar and will be managing the First Hill Streetcar project, were also in attendance. Much was made of the job creation potential in the new construction as well as the urban development that will grow up around the streetcar line. During his own speech, King County Executive Dow Constantine echoed the mayor’s opening sentiments about the importance of the First Hill Streetcar to the evolution of the First Hill and Capitol Hill district, saying, “[The streetcar] will influence and guide development in our neighborhoods.”
The guest speakers at the ground breaking lifted their gold shovels shortly before 1 p.m. April 23, 2012. The First Hill Streetcar is expected to be operational by Spring 2014.