Attention Seattle streetcar lovers: If you happen to be near the intersection of First Avenue S. at S. Main Street in Pioneer Square and see a construction crew ripping out the tracks of the old George Benson Waterfront Streetcar, don't panic. This doesn't mean the powers that be have forever given up on the Waterfront Streetcar: it just means the tracks are in the way.
George Mitacek, a project manager with the King County Department of Transportation, said crews are only removing the tracks within that intersection. Heavy traffic over the years has deteriorated the rubber around the rails, making for a bumpy ride for drivers and bikers alike. Also, Seattle City Light needs to replace a vault beneath the southbound lanes of that intersection as part of a larger rewiring project, and the tracks are in their way. So crews will tear out the tracks, let City Light work on the vault, then pave the intersection with new asphalt. The tracks will be gone in that intersection, but will remain everywhere else.
If, by some stroke of bizarre luck, someone were to leave several million dollars in unmarked twenty-dollar bills on a Metro bus, failed to claim it within the 30-day lost-and-found period, and King County decided to spend it on reinstating the Waterfront Streetcar (rather than on closing its ever-growing deficits), Mitacek said those tracks would have had to be replaced anyway. Aside from deterioration, he said the stretch of track along Main St doesn't meet modern streetcar standards, and they would need to be replaced with tracks similar to the ones used on the South Lake Union line.
The Waterfront Streetcar was discontinued in 2005 when its maintenance barn was demolished in order to build the Olympic Sculpture Park. A proposed new barn near Occidental Park has stalled, apparently permanently, and the streetcar has been stuck in mass transit limbo ever since.