Monday, August 22, 2011

DDOT: Streetcar to Run in 2 Years

DC Streetcar Front by Mr. T in DC
DC Streetcar Front, a photo by Mr. T in DC on Flickr.

I know you'll want to read the full press release, but this is exciting and reassuring news for all. DDOT has announced that the H Street / Benning road line will be up and running by mid-2013. They are currently looking an plans for turn arounds and a car barn, and well as other remaining necessities.

DC Streetcar Update: First Line in Two Years Time

DDOT Action Will Enable Opening of First Streetcar Line No Later than Mid 2013

(Washington, DC) – Future riders of the DC Streetcar system are several steps closer to boarding the initial line. The District Department of Transportation (DDOT) has released plans that will enable the H Street/Benning Road line to open no later than mid 2013.

DDOT released a request for bids to design and build the remaining elements of the line, which encompasses western and eastern turnarounds, a “car barn” maintenance facility and the final improvements to the already-built 2.2-mile corridor on H Street/Benning Road. DDOT also plans to utilize the car barn as a training center for District students. DDOT anticipates design work to start in late fall, culminating with the first passengers boarding the line in mid 2013.
“We are excited to put in place the final pieces to complete the H Street/Benning Road Line,” said DDOT Director Terry Bellamy. “Today we are identifying the way forward.”
The initial design included a western turnaround and maintenance facility below the H Street “Hopscotch Bridge” adjacent to Union Station. The design was altered when DDOT learned of plans to expand the railroad in the future. While DDOT is still evaluating alternatives to connect the current western turnaround at 3rd and H Street to Union Station, the connection will be included as part of this project.

At the eastern turnaround, DDOT will construct a car barn maintenance facility that could include a training program for students in D.C. Public Schools. If implemented, the program would enable students to learn the principles of streetcar operations and maintenance, providing future career opportunities for D.C. residents and a home-grown pipeline of talent for the eventual 37-mile DC Streetcar system.

As part of the procurement, DDOT has specified a 35 percent Certified Business Enterprise and First Source Agreement requirement for the selected design-build contractor.
Along the already-built corridor, crews will erect catenaries (overhead power lines), install electrical substations and complete other improvements to enable the opening of the line no later than mid 2013.


Anonymous said...

i will believe this is going to happen when I see the cars running down the street, and not a minute before.

Too bad none of the city council member's brothers own a street car company, then this would be done in no time.

Dave B said...


Anonymous said...

While I'm hoping it's just me mis-reading it, the "...DDOT is still evaluating alternatives to connect the current western turnaround at 3rd and H Street to Union Station" bit makes me kinda nervous.

3rd and H is nowhere near Union Station from a commuter/convenience standpoint: It'd be easier and faster to just take the X8, X9 or X2 to get to the Union Station Metro stop - and if they can't get the western terminus closer than 3rd Street, then I foresee very few people willing to walk four blocks or so just to transfer, and very low ridership as a result.

Again: Hope I'm just mis-reading this.

Dave B said...

It is a bit clumsy wording, because there is no turnaround at all at 3rd and H.

I think everybody sees how useless it would be to turn around at 3rd St, and I assume/hope that it is not one of the alternatives being considered

dt said...

The picture I've seen before has the last station (I think) at 3rd & H, and then the tracks would go up the hopscotch bridge and into the parking deck at Union Station. Still inconvenient to transfer, but no more so than rail->circulator.

Long term, I think they should go all the way to 7th & H NW. It's where most riders of the X2 are headed anyway.

Anonymous said...

@ dt -

The plans I've seen on DDOT's website show the streetcar coming over the Hopscotch bridge, making a right on NJ Ave, making a left on K Street, continuing around Mt. Vernon Square, and down K Street towards Georgetown. I haven't had a chance to pull up the "idealized plan" yet, but I think if you search you'll find it there.

Anonymous said...

Except that the Hopscotch bridge is scheduled to be replaced in 2015. There is no way to make a terminus in the parking garage with the bridge under construction. I think the only viable alternative is to have the Metro transfer at the New York Avenue station.

Anonymous said...

A metro transfer at NY Ave station would kinda suck. Most people would be coming from the Chinatown area, so the X2 would still be faster than riding up to NY Ave just to come back down to H Street. Of course, a streetcar that just runs back and forth on a 2-mile segment would also be pretty useless, since it would be faster for most people to just walk where they need to go along H Street. Big waste of money, unless it connects to Chinatown.

Anonymous said...

I'd like to know what analysis was done to determine that most of the people coming to H st will be coming from Chinatown, so as to imply that Chinatown is the epicenter of anything.

BiLL said...

Hey Anon 7:32 -- I remember hearing some time ago that DDOT planned to replace the Hopscotch Bridge in the near future. (In my opinion, it's sorely needed.) I haven't been able to find anything on their website though about the project. Do you know if the replacement project is still on or has it been scuttled? Just curious.

Anonymous said...

Anon 4:22 again.

The "over Hopscotch Bridge into the parking garage" option has always struck me as both impractical and inelegant, and if they'll be re-building it in a couple years it seems like something that's impossible at this point.

Routing up or connecting to New York Ave. station is even more ridiculous, considering the time, distance and commuting inconvenience that would involve. Not to mention: do you put more stops in between the Metro station and H St.? If so, why? If not, why would anyone want a (temporary) streetcar line running down their street?

Can't DC just eminent domain the original proposed access tunnel? Aren't there any other options for going over or under the train tracks? How will all this tie together once the Hopscotch Bridge is replaced?

I've long been a supporter of the streetcar, but with Gabe Klein's departure, Gray's election and Tommy Wells losing transportation, it just seems like there's no one stepping up and championing this thing (press releases from DDOT don't really count).

I know there's a lot of balls in the air on this project, but someone needs to lay down exactly what the plan is for this, or H Street businesses and investors are going to start getting very nervous about this (if they haven't already).


East_H said...

First, kudos to DDOT. They need to seriously amp up the PR on this effort, and I hope this is the first in a string of regular, positive updates on real progress.

Second, I second the call for a connection to Chinatown. A connection to Chinatown + light priority would be killer.

Don King said...

Tommy Wells...aka Gerry Cooney

Anonymous said...

Anon 4:22 yet again.

City Paper has the following on the "three options" being considered:

Spoiler: None of them are good.

I don't really see the value in the Chinatown connection: Chinatown and points west are rather well-served by Metrorail already, and the stop at Union Station (or I guess New York Ave.) is meant to tie into that. Going north after Union Station opens up the line to a bunch of folks, and doesn't replicate the existing Red Line (or X2). Yeah... Maybe it'd save a few people a transfer, but that's hardly a reason to connect there.

...but in the end, I just want this damn thing built, functional and useful. I can live with whatever it takes to get there.

dt said...

A transit system works best when different modes of transport are interconnected. Chinatown is a major transit hub in the city, centrally located with multiple rail and bus lines converging, and linking the streetcar to that hub makes a lot of sense to me.

If you ride the X2 regularly you'll notice that most people take it from home (somewhere along the H/Benning corridor) to Chinatown and go straight into the metro for points elsewhere, and vice versa. Yes, there's rail at Union Station, but it's not as convenient since only one line serves Union Station. From Chinatown you can get to all of the lines with a short wait or walk.

tiffanyc said...

i'm so glad to see so many people saying all the things i've been saying for years. this is a perfect example of 'cart before the horse'. buy cars...lay tracks....dont know where its going...dont know how its powered...dont know where the cars will be stored...

i'd rather live forever looking at unused tracks then to try to make something out of this mess by having a 'streetcar to nowhere.'


Anonymous said...


Anon 4:22 commenting once again.

I understand and agree with part of your statement, but your points about Chinatown being a "hub" can be applied to Union Station as well: Buses, trains, Metro - they're all there.

Here's my main issue with that proposal: The streetcar project was initiated to provide a transit option to people who have no (or at least limited) access to Metrorail. Running the streetcar along a route that is already being served in that regard would be redundant, and would be somewhat against "mission". In contrast, going north on New Jersey and then cutting across town on K serves areas that are currently under-served (and kinda isolated).

If this line is going to be the only one with no plans for future extension, then routing to Chinatown would be great. But this is (hopefully) just the first piece of a larger plan.

I'll stop now.

Gonzo said...

Wow. What a shit show. I'm all for public transport and love trams, but without an conventient terminal at Union Station, this project is a bust. Yes, I sympathize with those who think the city might as well go through with it, we have the tracks and all, but in the end, I don't see much marginal advantage to having the streetcar. H street is well served by the X2 and a streetcar would only be an advantage if it plugged straight into a major metro station. The proposals for Union Station seem to far away from Metro to garner that many riders. Taking it up to New York would be helpful, but then you aren't near Amtrak or MARC. So stupid.

This whole discussion reminds me of the Dulles Metro line discussion. We can't seem to plan shit in this country anymore.