DDOT says H Street/Benning Road Street Car line “to open no later than mid 2013”

Photo by PoPville flickr user Mr. T in DC

From a DDOT press release:

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.

45 Comment

  • I can’t believe it has taken this long to implement century old technology. Oh wait, this is D.C. and that’s perfectly normal for us.

  • Imagine my surprise that this ridiculous boondoggle has fallen back another siz months since DDOT last gave us a proposed deadline back 4 months ago in April.

    Mark my words. That fancy pants 3 phase 37 mile long network that gridlock gabe paraded to the District will never happen. Its pie in the sky and won’t ever be funded in its entirity. This H Street section will be it, and this is ~4 years and tens of millions over budget.

  • I’ll believe it when I see it.

  • Remind me how a street car that runs on a lane shared with cars and stops at any red light is any different than a bus? Except for the fact it cant detour in an emergency and is constrained by the number already using the track, of course…

    I know buses arent exciting, but a street car that doesnt have its own lanes, is exactly the same thing.

    I know its spurred all kinds of rejuvenation, but thats based on self perpetuating speculation – after a few years, theres no reason to think people are going to want to ride a street car anymore than a bus.

    • A lot of people are intimidated by the buses– either they don’t like the looks of the people that ride them, or they’re confused by the routes/schedules, or they think they’re dirty or too slow. None of these are valid excuses, of course, but buses still have that stigma, which is why otherwise reasonable people will pay extra to be driven around by psychopathic cab drivers or take a roundabout route via Metrorail.

      • Agreed.

        I am from NOLA and the tourists and just in town for business types don’t like buses. Lots of places have buses and they seem ho hum. I would also think they seem to think that being on a fixed track won’t put them somewhere they can’t get back from. Lots of tourists don’t like to get or even feel (even if they aren’t) lost. With the street car they know that those tracks ain’t going anywhere.

        • And just how many tourists do you see strolling down H Street and Benning Road? I think more tourists ride the DC Circulator than will EVER ride this streetcar.

          • Yeah, I wasn’t thinking tourists so much as suburbanites and yuppies. There are actually a lot of DC residents who have never set foot on a bus.

            That said, I think the streetcar would actually bring tourists into H Street because it’s easy to understand.

          • I think a simplified express bus system would accomplish the same goal at a fraction of the cost.

          • I live near H and see tourists frequently these days. There were quite a few out on Saturday morning.

      • aka, white people don’t want to ride the bus because they don’t want to look poor and come in contact with those icky black and brown people so here is a lovely street car for all you yuppies!

    • @Anon: +1 This is what I’ve been saying from day 1. We could have bought some shiny new express buses, called them something fancy like “trolleys,” charged $2 per ride, and people would be lined up down the block to ride them. This would have cost a fraction of the cost we’ve already spent on the street car project and it would have been up and running years ago.

      I consider myself progressive and pro-transit, but I’m still not sold on this street car project! The cost-benefit just doesn’t add up to me.

  • When do we get it on GA Ave?

  • Yeah, ever since I couldn’t find a house to buy over on the east end of H street I have loved to hate on the streetcar myself.

    The truth is that it is makes no sense and will never be done. ever. as long as we live.

    But it does SOUND cool. And I was at one time excited about it before I read how it is in effect a bus with no wheels.

    What we REALLY need is a ring line from dupont to Adams Morgan to C heights to Brookland to the starburst to eastern market and then waterfront and the smithsonian.

    Or some such other dream combo — that would really connect this city.

    But public transportation in these parts isn’t really about the city.

    And we definitely can’t afford it or manage it in any sort of efficient manner.

    • austindc

      Well, I think that is partly what the circulator program is laying the groundwork for. DDOT started circulator to connect interesting areas in the city that were not connected well by WMATA. Perhaps as the circulator network grows, some of the lines will be replaced by trolley lines? It would be pretty sweet to be able to take streetcars to all those places you listed.

  • H Street has been built up on a large amount of speculation revolving around what the streetcar will bring. Houses are currently priced 3 years in the future.

    I love that public trans is at the center of this but without a dedicated lane this will be a glorified bus. Much better things could’ve been done to connect transit gaps in the city but we are too deep in it now.

    So bring on the streetcar, the housing prices already reflect it being there so I hope for everyone’s sake (who bought there) that it doesn’t have anymore hiccups!

    • Wouldn’t there be strong car-commuter reistance to losing a lane of traffic on the road? I always figured the most important thing was to plan it so that the tracks get in, then worry about taking the lane from cars at a later date.

      • austindc

        I bet you’re right. I bet DDOT would do a dedicated lane if they could, but there are probably still a lot of folks along that corridor who still use cars, so they probably would oppose it.

  • How often will streetcars clip parked cars / be brought to a standstill by double-parked cars on H Street NE? Daily? They better be planning to deploy a dedicated tow truck to keep the street car lanes clear.

  • Lots of streetcar hate in here. Let me guess, most of you are in NW?

    I have my own problems with the streetcar and the way it has been planned, but it’s fueled so much development already that it’s hard to argue against it.

    Light priority is the key here. Give these suckers light priority and it’s a complete game changer.

    • Light priority is exacttly right. Funny how so many people questioning the value of streetcars over busses admit that this line has fueled a lot of the development on H St.

      Also, streetcars work in lanes shared by cars all over the world without gridlock due to double parking. I think most people are smart enough not to park on tracks. Those who aren’t will learn quickly once there car is towed.

      • Amen. We’re trying to make this city a world capital. Streetcar lines are going to spur development all over DC the way they have on H Street if we can get people in office who have greater ambitions than getting constituents city jobs.

        If we can get these things to GA Ave, the entire community will transform around the tracks. It’d make the development on H Street look like — I don’t know — Grand Forks. The pro-streetcar evidence is everywhere. More than any data, though, what makes streetcars so exciting is that they’ll help define this city and its communities in ways that busses simply can’t.

        I’m not a great big fan of pushing things because they’re green, but I thought more PoP commenters would be. We can run these cars on nuclear power, or at least clean(ish) coal. The idea is the same as the electric car. Busses, even when running on natural gas, are filthy.

    • creating an asset bubble, of sorts, is not a laudable accomplishment. there is nothing about development on H Street that cant be undone by a lack of drink and food sales.

    • What the hell does ones quadrant have to do with anything?

      I’m a DC taxpayer for one and the complete and utter failure in which this program has been handled should have everyone up in arms. This town can’t collect the garbage reliably or keep the streets paved and they want to blow ~1.5 billion on a transportation system that is more useless than a bus? Who are we kidding?

      There was no planning, the first step they took was ordering freaking streetcars. Not designing the system, figuring out how to power it, figuring out how to pay or sustain it, or figuring our the ROW, where it turns around etc. Consequently we’ve already paid millions of dollars just in storage fees for these cars that were done 4 years ago. This entire program has now taken twice as long and cost 40% more and this was supposed to be the easy demonstrator.

      And development? Ok, if you want your neighborhood to turn into another Adams Morgan than fine, but just as many bars go out of business in H Street as are opened. The turnover is astronomical.

      Then again the complete and utter failure of the city to implement a streetcar system on a straight 1.3 mile long street only proves my suspicion that this ridiculousness won’t go any further than that. This demonstrator segment will be the only one opened for a very long time, if any others are done at all.

      • austindc

        Yeah, but they ordered the streetcars first because they got a good deal by partnering with another town, so they got a bulk discount. I think it was smart shopping, even if they had to pay a little for storage fees.

    • Yup in NW and happy with the bus system!

  • I used to live in Philly on a streetcar line, and let me tell you, when you’re double-parked blocking the tracks, and a streetcar comes along and starts blowing it’s horn – believe me you hear it, and you go running to move your car. Those things blast you. It doesn’t happen very often and I don’t think will be much of a problem here either.

  • As an urban planner currently working on development around a “proposed” Purple Line stop in MoCo, this sounds par for the course. Previous posters are correct, there is a stigma that is attached to bus service by developers and some members of the community. Residents/visitors prefer light rail over bus service because they feel that they are less likely to have to deal with certain segments of the population and developers prefer it because it represents long-term investment. The logic for the developer is that bus service can be changed/re-routed but light rail is fixed/permanent.
    It doesn’t matter how the argument is framed…bus service always seems to lose this battle.

    • White people have a stigma against the bus system. Let’s keep it real here. Since black moved from the back of the bus, they have been pissed. Now they need another (duplicative) mode of transport so the can return to their superior self.

    • austindc

      I think you have a good point houndster! I’m not a planner or anything fancy like that, but there is something reassuring about seeing built transit infrastructure. Plus, I think these things can carry more folks than a bus, and like that poon dude said, they run cleaner, so I like that too.

      I’m sad it’s off schedule, but I have to give DDOT props for navigating all the hurdles with this project–the whole overhead wire thing and how to connect at Union Station. I’ve seen lesser cities fold transit projects before completion over crap like that, so I am stoked that they are moving ahead. I look forward to riding it!

  • To SF “I live near H and see tourists frequently these days. There were quite a few out on Saturday morning.”

    No you don’t and didn’t Saturday, but good try!

    • Yes I do, and yes there were. On Saturday I gave directions to a group who were on a walking tour of Capitol Hill.

      What would I be “trying”?

      Look, I’m not saying Segs in the City is rolling down H, but H Street has been profiled in several travel publications recently. Some tourists want to see it. Most couldn’t care less, of course, but DC gets a LOT of tourists this time of year, and some of them seem to drop by and check it out.

  • This does represent a good chance for dc to play host to the world’s first trolley-by shooting, however.

  • to me the saddest part in all of this is how badly ddot has botched simple PR.

  • Yay for more mass transit. Anything that makes the city trump the suburbs is a ‘go’ in my book. We saw the great migration to the burbs in the 1970-80s, and now the pendulum is swinging back the other way. Rather than hate on the trolley line, be happy it will help development along the city and continue to make DC a world class destination and example of green living.

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