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October 25, 2011 at 6:46 PM

Local jobs making local streetcars, City of Seattle says

An upcoming contract to build First Hill Streetcar trains will include assembly jobs here in the Seattle area, the office of Mayor Mike McGinn said late Tuesday.

The winning team is to be announced mid-day Wednesday in South Lake Union.

Streetcar jobs have been a high-profile issue in many cities. Modern streetcars, including the first train sets in Portland and the first three on Seattle’s South Lake Union line, were built by companies in the Czech Republic. Seattle’s streetcars came from Inekon in 2007.  Since then, a new manufacturer, United Streetcar, was created by Oregon Iron Works in Portland and says it is building 13 railcars currently. The effort to create a homegrown railcar industry has been lauded by U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.

The “love affair” in Portland is a good political boost for locally-sponsored streetcar projects, and a model for what can happen here, said Bruce Agnew, policy director of the pro-rail Cascadia Center at the Discovery Institute in Seattle. Another rail-employment success story, Agnew said, is Pacifica Marine in Seattle, which has been assembling Spanish Talgo trains for the Amtrak Cascades line since the mid-’90s, providing jobs for ex-Boeing employees, among others.  Several U.S. cities are building lines, asking for federal aid and creating a potentially broader domestic market for a U.S. builder.

The $130 million First Hill line, connecting the International District/Chinatown Station to the future Capitol Hill Station, is to open in 2013. Construction starts next year.

Typical modern streetcars are worth $3 million to $4 million each. The new railcars built in Seattle probably will need to be compatible with the South Lake Union tracks, for the city to reach its long-term goal of creating an interconnected system.

Comments | More in Business/Technology, Government, Traffic & Transit | Topics: First Hill, Mike McGinn, Pacifica Marine

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