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Group aims to return vintage streetcars to Seattle streets

The Benson streetcars were brought to Seattle in 1982 by Seattle City Councilmember George Benson to operate on Seattle's waterfront. January 2016. KOMO PHOTOS.

SEATTLE -- A group in Seattle has started a campaign to raise money to retrofit two vintage streetcars so they can go back into service.

The George Benson street cars used to operate along the waterfront and in the International District before being taken out of service in 2005. They've been stored in a warehouse in SoDo ever since.

Friends of Benson Trolleys launched a two-year fundraising effort, and say if enough money is raised, the cars would be able to carry passengers between Pioneer Square and South Lake Union.

"It may be they only start out on weekends and holidays, but we believe they're going to be so popular that Seattle will have to use them much more often than that," Tom Gibbs with Friends of Benson Trolleys said.

Three other vintage Seattle streetcars were recently sold to St. Louis for the city's heritage trolley line. The city paid $200,000 for the cars that will serve in Missouri.

In support of the venture, Seattle officials have agreed to store the remaining cars for two years.

If King County fails to put the streetcars back into service, they'll be forced to repay $205,000 - the federal governments remaining investment of the cars, according to the Federal Transit Administration.

"Metro is very proud of our history with the Benson streetcars, but we need to balance that with our obligation to serve the people of King County with efficient bus service as our region continues to grow," said Metro General Manager Kevin Desmond.

The Benson streetcars were brought to Seattle in 1982 by Seattle City Councilmember George Benson to operate on Seattle's waterfront.

While an exact number has not been released, the group will need to raise at least six figures for initial studies and modifications to meet ADA requirements.

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