Seattle's $52M streetcar fiasco the latest setback for city's anti-Trump mayor

Seattle’s anti-Trump mayor, Jenny Durkan, may be on track for a political backlash: Her city’s $52 million money splash on public transit appears doomed because new taxpayer-funded streetcars apparently won’t fit the existing tracks.

Durkan’s office has braced city residents for the possibility, the Seattle Times reported.

The Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) reportedly ordered 10 new streetcars last year, to help expand the Seattle Streetcar system by linking the two existing streetcar lines.

But the new streetcars also are reportedly heavier and longer than the ones currently in use, raising concerns about whether they'll be used at all.

“It appears the error will require either a change order for design of the streetcars or incur new costs for construction of new or retrofitted maintenance barns,” City Councilmember Lisa Herbold wrote in the city’s blog post last week.

“It appears the error will require either a change order for design of the streetcars or incur new costs for construction of new or retrofitted maintenance barns.”

— Seattle City Councilmember Lisa Herbold

Durkan had to temporarily stop work on the project after revelations that it may cost 50 percent more than previously estimated, the Times reported. The estimated total cost has already increased from $150 million to $200 million.

It's just the latest of several setbacks for Durkan while her national profile continues to rise amid fervent attacks against the Trump administration over immigration, climate change and abortion.

In April, after the U.S. Justice Department sent letters urging so-called sanctuary cities, including Seattle, to prove they are cooperating with federal immigration authorities, Durkan fired back, saying the administration should focus on “real public safety threats.”

“Our city complies with federal immigration law and asks that the Department of Justice and ICE [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] do the same,” Durkan said in a statement. “The federal government does not get to run our cities or convert our local law enforcement officials into immigration cops. I implore this administration to focus on real public safety threats, like the opioid crisis, instead of unnecessarily threatening our residents and mayors across the country.”

Durkan doesn’t hold back when attacking the administration on Twitter, either.

“As woman mayors, we are doing our part to protect our citizens against the all-out war that the Trump administration has waged against safe, inclusive communities, clean energy, and bold climate action,” she wrote in a tweet.

“Further evidence that Trump’s administration is founded on cruelty and callous disregard for immigrant lives. Seattle stands with Salvadorans against this unjust decision,” she wrote in another tweet, referring to the Trump administration’s decision to end Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for immigrants from El Salvador.

But as the mayor’s profile rises nationally, the city is facing dire problems and embarrassing flip-flops. The Seattle region reportedly has the third-highest number of homeless people in the U.S., even though the city spent $68 million on combatting homelessness last year.

Earlier this year, the city council also had to repeal a “head tax” aimed at taxing businesses that make $20 million in gross revenue about $275 per full-time worker each year.

The money would have gone to alleviate the homelessness problem. The tax was repealed just a month later after it passed due to pressure from Seattle-based companies Amazon and Starbucks.