Final Streetcar Construction Underway on H Street – Passenger Service will not Begin until 2014

Photo by PoPville flickr user philliefan99

From DDOT:

“The District Department of Transportation (DDOT) has announced that it has approached the final stage of construction of the H Street/Benning Road Streetcar line—and that it anticipates testing of streetcars in the corridor will begin in December. Citizens can expect to see streetcars along H Street/Benning Road during this process, although passenger service will not begin until 2014.

The streetcar system safety work in December will require the integration of power, communications, and traffic signal controls to ensure that all components are safe and working properly. The streetcar system work must perform under several traffic scenarios, and emergency drills will be performed before safety certification can begin by local and federal safety officials.

“This process involves several critical steps, will take several months to complete, and is intended to ensure that the operation of our vehicles is safe for use by all who interact with the system,” said DDOT Director Terry Bellamy. “It also provides our streetcar operators with the ability to operate these vehicles under live traffic conditions along the H Street/Benning Road corridor and allows pedestrians and motorists the chance to experience first-hand how the streetcar system will work once passenger service starts. This is a critical phase of the project that we can’t afford to rush. Construction completion and system testing and integration will clear the way for passengers to use the system confidently—and safely.”

The streetcar safety system testing phase will start with the three cars currently housed at the Testing and Commissioning Site in Anacostia, with a fourth vehicle being delivered from Oregon Iron Works in December. Final safety certification cannot occur until all five cars are tested and accepted into the system—the fifth car will be delivered in January 2014. The delivery of the fourth and fifth vehicles by Oregon Iron Works has been delayed due to the vendor supply issues associated with their work in other cities. The District is working with these cities to assist in the success of this company.

Before testing begins in December, crews must complete the final stretch of construction which is well underway. About 80 percent of the work to make H Street/Benning Road “streetcar-ready” was completed during Phase 1 in 2011, during the Great Streets roadway reconstruction project. Currently, DDOT is performing final design and construction for streetcar turnarounds, Car Barn Training Center (CBTC), installation of poles and overhead wires, track installation for turnarounds/pocket tracks and final work for turnarounds.

DDOT has established a Construction Hotline ((202) 210-3700) to provide affected individuals with immediate assistance. The DC Streetcar website ( also has daily construction updates and a block-by-block construction map for residents to track progress and get the latest updates.”

23 Comment

  • I really hope this is true, but I’m not holding my breath. It wasn’t long ago they were saying streetcar testing would begin in October. The substations haven’t even been built yet and the wires aren’t up. Don’t know how long that will take, but seems like more than a month…

  • I wonder how much they will change the flow of traffic up and down H once fully operating

    also how it will look with all of the overhead wires.. will deff change the view coming down from hopscotch

    • justinbc

      The FAQ on the Streetcar’s website is actually pretty thorough, and can answer many of the questions posed above. (Assuming things are as they say.)

  • It’s scary how excited I am to finally have the streetcar coming to DC. *…

  • Yeah! The street car that goes nowhere! Wonder when they’ll start training locals not to randomly double park on top of the trolly rails? Also wondering how this will work with the valets constantly blocking the right lane in front of the beer garden. This will be fun to watch.

    • By “nowhere”, you mean the streetcar that travels over twenty blocks down the busiest corridor in Northeast DC? Oh yeah, that. Even if this relieves some of the crowding on the X2 from people who are only traveling up Benning to transfer to the 90 buses to go to Southeast, it’s well worth it. Would have been better if it went all the way to North Capitol (the other major transfer point for people on the X2 other than 8th), but hey, it’s a start.

    • This is just the first line in what is a 30-year plan for the city. The eventual goal is to have it go downtown. The streetcar website clears this up.
      That said, the very underserved eastern end of H and Benning Road will finally have an option other than the X2 (which as others have mentioned is already over crowded). This will be huge for those neighborhoods and I’m sure they don’t feel that the streetcar goes “nowhere.”

      • justinbc

        +1, this. Do some actual research. Things aren’t built overnight, and the long term plan for the streetcar actually covers quite a lot, especially in areas without Metro access.

    • The streetcar drivers should be given the authority to ticket anybody who blocks the track.

  • Ya, honestly have no idea why they put the tracks in on the right side of the street. Everywhere else in the world that has them, puts them in the center for those and other reasons. Maybe they have their own theory on why this will work better?

    • The New Orleans streetcar, which runs down the center of St. Charles Avenue, doesn’t share the road with cars. You’d hear people *howling* if DDOT took away the center lanes running each way on (a large portion of) Benning & H for the streetcar. Considering that people are used to board public transportation on the curb side, this isn’t terribly unusual. I can’t think of one time that a double parked car forced the X2 to have to veer around it (buses travel in the curb lane, too), so I don’t understand all the hand-wringing about double parking. In fact, I’m trying to recall the last time I even saw a car double parked on H during rush hour…back in the day, it happened a lot, but I haven’t seen that in months, if not years…

      • Yeah I think you’re right. Even last year the double parkers were more common. Lately I have not seen this happening nearly as much. Perhaps it’s a sign that parking enforcement has stepped up its game in preparation of the streetcar.

      • justinbc

        I mostly see it with food / beer delivery trucks, if anything.

      • Emmaleigh504

        Wrong the New Orleans street cars don’t always share the road with cars. There are places where they are on the road with cars. They just have lots of wide boulevards in New Orleans so the street car lines are mostly on the neutral ground instead of on the street.

        • Emmaleigh504

          Boy that’s a jumbled mess of words. I mean, in New Orleans the Street Car lines share the road with cars in some places even though they are mostly on the neutral ground. And where they share the road with cars is downtown on some pretty busy streets.

    • “Everywhere” is a bit of an overstatement, I can think of many places where they run along the curb lanes (Switzerland and Czech, for example). Having them in the middle leads to a lot more pedestrian crossings and therefore incidents involving peds.

  • Streetcars : DC Transportation :: ACA : Healthcare

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