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Washington - December 2011

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Washington, DC ― Columbia Pike Cost Soars

Rail Transit Online, December 2011

December 7 - Cost estimates for the proposed five-mile (8 km) Columbia Pike Streetcar in northern Virginia has rocketed upward in the last two years, with the price tag now standing at up to $261 million.

The over $100-million increase resulted from inflation, more detailed engineering studies of the project, the decision to purchase more rolling stock than originally envisioned and from federal requirements for a higher contingency fund; the latter alone added $34 million. Arlington County Board Chairman Chris Zimmerman downplayed the sticker shock, insisting to The Washington Post that the increase is "actually fairly slight" because "...numbers are always a moving target in transportation projects."

Initially the line would link the Pentagon City Metro station with Skyline in Fairfax County, followed by later extensions south through Crystal City to Alexandria. The Columbia Pike Transit Initiative Policy Committee plans to seek federal funding from both the New Starts and Small Starts programs that would pay 30 percent of the capital cost. The remainder would come from the state of Virginia and local sources.

Revenue service could start in 2016 if construction gets underway in 2013. "This is a project that has the most potential to help us achieve our environmental goals and livability goals," Zimmerman told the Post. "We think it will have a very high return."

Streetcar Will Reach Union Station

December 21 - The District Department of Transportation has decided to route the proposed 2.2-mi. (3.54 km) H Street streetcar line to Union Station via the existing "Hopscotch Bridge," which spans the station's tracks.

The location of the streetcar terminal, which will allow easy connections to Amtrak and the Metro, has been controversial; originally plans called for the streetcar to pass under Union Station's platforms using existing subterranean storage areas, where a station would be located. But Amtrak vetoed that idea because it anticipates future use of the space.

An alternative was to swing the line north to the New York Avenue Metro station but residents objected. D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray said the H Street Bridge was the best compromise. "A connection to Union Station, even if it's only an interim solution, is necessary," Gray said at a public outreach meeting. "It is critical we have this connection in place for the opening of the streetcar system in July 2013. The benefits afforded by a close connection to a regional transit hub are infinite."

Tracks have been laid for the H Street line from west of First Street NE to east of Oklahoma Avenue NE but the traction power system, a maintenance base and the two terminals must still be completed.

Meanwhile, the District has purchased two streetcars for the H Street line from United Streetcar for $8.7 million. The firm, which obtains most of its parts in the U.S., won out over Inekon of the Czech Republic, whose bid was $9.5 million. However, the United cars are virtual copies of an Inekon design.

This will give the dDOT five streetcars; it purchased three from Inekon several years ago and has held them in storage pending completion of the H Street and Anacostia projects; the latter has suffered numerous delays and probably won't be completed until after H Street.

The two are part of a planned 37-mi. (59.5 km) streetcar system designed to cover much of the District.


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