Waterfront Park and the Benson Streetcars

Hello all,

On July 9th I participated in a panel discussion at Horizon House where the City’s planning director, Marshall Foster, provided a preview of the material presented at the Seattle Center on Thursday. The County Executive’s transportation policy advisor and two engineers from SDOT were in attendance, also. Marshall painted an exciting picture of what the waterfront can become when the viaduct comes down. He stated that as the design process advances, two modes of transportation along the waterfront will be studied one of which will be a streetcar line! This is very good news but it means that we will need to be vigilant to make sure the comparison between the alternatives is done objectively and with serious consideration of the historical significance of the Benson cars.

Early in the discussion, the County representative stated clearly that the Benson Trolley cars are not for sale and that the County wants to find a way to make sure the cars are available for use in Seattle. GREAT NEWS!! However, Metro Transit is concerned that the roof of the building housing the vintage cars is vulnerable to collapse from a heavy snow load and therefore the County is hopeful that someone will step forward with an offer to move the cars to a safer location.

At the July 13th community forum at Seattle Center, James Corner – the waterfront park planner – presented a series of renderings that depicted development opportunities along the waterfront. The future waterfront will be an exciting people oriented destination if his vision can be realized and we meet the funding challenge. Corner mentioned, almost in passing, that SDOT is looking at transportation alternatives and showed a slide with multiple vehicles including a Benson trolley. He made no mention of the trolley, however.

In the hall, the park planning staff displayed a number of ‘boards’ where attendees could ‘vote’ to show their preference for various elements of the park. One board asked for preferences regarding transportation alternatives one of which was streetcars, The vehicle shown was a modern car. Nevertheless, that alternative received far more votes than any other with a preponderance of the handwritten comments in support of the Benson streetcars. Many of you were present and your presence was noted by senior members of the park planning team. Thank you for that. One official noted that, “You’ve definitely got the attention of City Hall”.

The Waterfront Advisory Committee co-chairs, Charley Royer and Maggie Walker, announced the formation of a non-profit organization to allow folks to be involved in the campaigns to raise funds for the waterfront improvements. We should all become members so that we can make our voices heard. The organization is known as “Friends of the Seattle Waterfront”.

Regards,
Tom Gibbs