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Washington - June 2017
   

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Washington, DC — Budget Cuts Threaten Exensions

June 2017

WAMU reports the planned expansion of D.C.’s starter streetcar system to areas east of the Anacostia River would be pushed back into the middle of the next decade, with an envisioned western extension to Georgetown delayed even longer, if budget cuts are approved by the D.C. Council.

City Council chair Phil Mendelson, a longtime critic of the District’s streetcar project, cut millions from the Bowser administration’s proposed six-year capital budget. Mendelson said the city’s initial, 2.4-mile line along H Street and Benning Road Northeast is “wildly unpopular” after a “horribly botched” construction that took about a decade over multiple mayoral administrations. The H Street line, at a cost of $229 million, finally opened in February 2016.

Sam Zimbabwe, the dDOT official who supervises capital projects, said the Benning Road extension across the river into Ward 7 would be a major loss.

“Design for the Benning Road extension wouldn’t start until 2021 rather than in fiscal year 2018 as we have planned,” Zimbabwe said. “The earliest construction could begin would be 2023.”

“Streetcars are still an important part of our transportation future. The design and construction of the existing line gave us a lot of information about how to do this better,” he added.

The initial line has been credited by officials and neighborhood groups with speeding the transformation of the H Street corridor. Long time economic stagnation yielded to rapid redevelopment.

Seven residential projects totaling 1,287 housing units have been completed within two blocks of H Street from 2nd Street to Oklahoma Avenue over the past two years. More than 100,000 square feet of retail space have opened to shoppers.

Six more residential developments with 215 units were under construction in early spring. Another 11 planned buildings will provide 1,308 rental and condo units plus 100,000 square feet of retail, according to the Washington, D.C. Economic Partnership.

The economic rebirth is expected to continue east of the river into Ward 7 with the streetcar as its catalyst.
Ridership is also outperforming projections, with about 3,000 trips per day.

The delays to the K Street line running west to Georgetown could also be severe, and affect a very large number of potential riders.

This line would have many fewer problems than the existing H Street/Benning route.

First, by running to downtown, Foggy Bottom, and Georgetown, the line would connect more significant traffice generators, and could support a car coming every five minutes.

Second, by building the line in a dedicated reservation on the center of K Street, it would face many fewer traffic delays than the existing line. dDot studies say this would save 30 minutes on a trip to from Union Station to Georgetown.

The line would also attract 19,000 riders per day, a density that would be among the best in the country for streetcar or light rail lines.

A factor arguing for a delay is that the Hopscotch Bridge, where the current line terminates behind Union Station, needs to be replaced and will be as part of the Burnham Place development to take shape over the railroad tracks. Starting the streetcar service when the new bridge is in place could make sense.

 

 

 

 

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