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First Hill Streetcar tracks come down Jackson…

Beginning this month, continuing through December, First Hill Streetcar construction crews will lay track all along South Jackson Street between 14th and 8th avenues south. Crews hope to finish installing streetcar tracks in Little Saigon by early next year. They will then come back to complete streetcar platforms, electrical work and smaller elements once the more impactful track installation wraps up.

Installing streetcar tracks is a great deal of work that must follow a specific pattern to be completed efficiently. The heavy steel streetcar tracks come in 300-feet long segments – short enough for quality control and to reduce the section of neighborhood being impacted, but long enough to ensure connected pieces can maintain leveling critical for streetcar operation. The plan is for crews to build all the outbound tracks along Jackson, between 14th and 8th avenues S, then shift to the other side of Jackson and build all of the inbound tracks. On each side, construction moves forward from east to west (click on map below to see larger version within corridor report).Map

During the Little Saigon track installation along Jackson, from now through January (anticipated date, assuming no unforeseeable circumstances arise)drivers can turn right into businesses.

Left turns will not be possible, because of the track work on one side of the street, but again, motorists can access businesses by making right turns. This impact moves steadily along Jackson as each segment of track is installed, first along one side of the roadway, and then along the other side, as detailed in the latest Jackson Corridor Report.

TRACKSThe key is a three-week cycle that repeats for each 300-feet segment, layering so that a new cycle begins every weekend.  Why the weekend? Because every cycle begins with road demolition and that requires de-energizing the overhead trolley wires and these wires can only be de-energized on weekends. If they are de-energized on weekdays, it would mean shutting down all King County Metro electric trolley buses during the busy weekday commute!

With the understanding that construction must follow this, “weekends only de-energizing” rule, construction teams worked out the three-week cycle that starts with roadway demolition the first weekend; then continues the next 2 ½ weeks to install conduit as needed; place rock; drill and install tie bars; place bottom reinforcing steel; place and weld rails; place top reinforcing steel; form and pour concrete track slab; and allow time for concrete to cure (harden).

Working within strict parameters, project leaders keep construction moving with the goal to be out of surrounding areas as quickly as possible. If crews can complete all Little Saigon South Jackson track installation by the start of 2014, the worst of the construction impacts in that area will have passed. Construction that follows includes building platforms at streetcar stops, completing electrical connections, installing road striping and signage, and adding landscaping.

The $134 million First Hill Streetcar Project stretches 2.5 miles end to end, from Jackson and Occidental to Broadway and Denny. Once complete, riders will be able to connect to Amtrak’s intercity passenger rail service, Sound Transit’s Link light rail and Sounder regional train service, regional and local bus lines, local bike networks, and ferries and water taxis.

Streetcar construction began the spring of 2012 and track is now installed all along Broadway from Denny to Yesler; along Yesler from Broadway to 14th; and along 14th to Jackson. The First Hill Streetcar is scheduled to be operating the summer of 2014.