SDOT’s First Hill Streetcar Project hosted two “Tea with the Contractor” open houses in the Chinatown-International District on Wednesday and Thursday, May 29 and 30. The first was at the Asian Resource Center, and the second at Wing Luke Museum. The City’s Race and Social Justice Initiative is playing a key role in developing inclusive outreach and public engagement strategies in this vibrantly diverse neighborhood to ensure equitable access to information and opportunities for feedback.
Streetcar construction along Jackson Street in the heart of the Chinatown-ID began in January, and work on underground utilities to get ready for the project started more than a year ago. When construction is completed in the spring of 2014, the streetcar will boost urban mobility and economic growth by providing a new way for residents and tourists to get around the city for work, school, shopping and recreation.
Sharing construction information with the public in a way that is easy to understand can be a challenge, especially when changing conditions require modifications to work plans. In response to requests from Chinatown-ID and Little Saigon residents, the First Hill Streetcar team scheduled the “Tea with the Contractor” events to help people better understand the project. Ads were placed in nine ethnic newspapers to invite people to these open houses, in addition to other means of announcing the events.
Census Tract data shows the percentage of the population “who speak English less than very well” ranges from 13.6 to 58.8 in the Chinatown – ID and Little Saigon areas. At the open houses, interpreters proficient in Mandarin, Cantonese, and Vietnamese were on hand to help overcome language barriers. While the use of translated written materials and of interpreters at meetings has been a feature of the streetcar project since before construction began, the project team has increased this effort in recent months in response to community concerns.
When completed, the First Hill Streetcar will have a 2.5 mile route with ten stations connecting the diverse neighborhoods of Capitol Hill, First Hill, the Chinatown-ID, and Pioneer Square. It will serve major medical centers, colleges, business districts and the sports stadiums. The streetcar will also connect passengers to Sound Transit’s LINK light rail stations at Union Station and Capitol Hill. The project represents a huge investment in the community which will have real, measurable benefits.
SDOT project managers are committed to working with the community so that residents and business persons impacted by the project receive the information they need – as well as the opportunity to share their concerns. Here’s to strengthening community partnerships on SDOT projects, including the First Hill Streetcar, as we progress through the construction phases and make transportation improvements a reality.