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Washington - February 2006

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Washington, DC

Rail Transit Online, February 2006

Streetcar Plan - H Street and Benning Road 

Streetcars could soon be returning to the nation’s capital as part of Mayor Anthony Williams’ “Great Streets” initiative.  According to an announcement by the city Department of Transportation, tracks will be included in a $43-million project to rebuild pavement along the H Street-Benning Road corridor.  Design is already underway and construction should start this fall.  Within about two years, according to one very optimistic estimate by neighborhood activists who favor the plan, streetcars could be plying a 3.5-mi. (5.63 km) route from the vicinity of Union Station to the Minnesota Avenue Metro station.  However, many decisions must still be made including the location of stations and the maintenance facility.  In addition, no funding for rolling stock has yet been identified. 

The city is studying a possible network of new streetcar lines and construction is already underway on a separate six-station, 2.7-mi. (4.34 km) demonstration line along a former railroad right-of-way that will serve the Anacostia area in southeast Washington.  Three modern Czech-made streetcars similar to those running on Portland and Tacoma have been ordered.  Trolleys last ran in Washington 44 years ago.

Columbia Pike Streetcar

A modern streetcar line along Columbia Pike in suburban Arlington County, Virginia, could help revive the now-dilapidated east-west thoroughfare and turn it into a successful commercial district.  The rail plan is being spearheaded by the Columbia Pike Revitalization Organization, and local officials are now warming to the idea.  Columbia Pike is one of the county's busiest corridors — its recently improved bus service is now the most patronized in Virginia.  But after checking out the Portland Streetcar, officials believe a similar scheme would give the area more character and, along with government redevelopment efforts, help attract upscale businesses and customers who would never consider riding a bus.  “When you see what they've been able to do in a place like Portland, it reflects the kind of ideas people in Columbia Pike have been pursuing for their own main street,” County Board Chairman Chris Zimmerman told The Washington Post.  “That's the biggest reason for the initiative.  You can't get that just with buses.” 

A five- or six-mile (8 km-9.6 km) line in Arlington would cost around $110 million and carry some 20,000 daily riders, according to very preliminary estimates.   One suggested route would stretch from Pentagon City to the Skyline area in Fairfax County, traveling on Columbia Pike and Jefferson Street.  Another alternative would terminate near Columbia Pike and Route 7 in Fairfax.  In early January, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority development committee recommended approval of the proposal to the full board.  If WMATA endorses the streetcar, it will be considered by the Arlington County Board and the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, possibly as early as March. Those bodies would then decide whether to move ahead with financing for preliminary engineering.  “The idea is to create a third leg of transit,” Tim Lynch, executive director of the Columbia Pike Revitalization Organization, told The Washington Post.  “Metro would serve as the spokes, and the trolley would be a surface system that would become part of the wheel working in conjunction with the buses.” 

Web site: www.columbiapikepartnership.com


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