What Does this Mean? Will Streetcars be powered by Overhead Wires or not? Or some sorta combination?

Photo by PoPville flickr user Mr. T in DC

Admittedly I’m not one to study reports and dig through the minutia of stuff that quite frankly I don’t understand. But one thing I have been able to understand is that there is a group that strongly opposes the use of overhead wires anywhere in DC (even if seemingly there are no views to be blocked). It was my understanding that the only way to power H St, NE’s proposed line was by overhead wires. Maybe I’m wrong but I thought I read that somewhere. Now DDOT issues a press release saying in part, “DDOT will also pursue a vehicle capable of operating without overhead wires in early 2011.”

So I ask you dear readers, who are far more knowledgeable about these sorts of things than I am – please explain what this means. Maybe the lawyers can help me understand what, “DDOT will also pursue a vehicle capable of operating without overhead wires in early 2011.” actually means. Does this mean, new tracks will be not be powered by overhead wires? Does it mean overhead wires will be installed and then removed when a vehicle “capable of operating without overhead wires” is procured? Does it mean where overhead wires are installed will remain overhead wires or are overhead wires completely off the table at this point?

Is it just me or were we once told that it had to be overhead wires?

And just to be clear on my end, from a personal level, I support the installation of street cars with or without overhead wires on H St, NE. Having said that, if it is possible without being prohibitively expensive, I too would prefer the cars be powered in other ways. Either way, I hope we’ll really see street cars in 2012.

Full press release after the jump.

The District Department of Transportation (DDOT) today is issuing a Request for Proposal (RFP) for the completion of the H Street/Benning Road Streetcar line. DDOT is soliciting design/build proposals to make the line operational and ready for revenue service in 2012, and the agency will issue a separate RFP this month for the purchase of additional streetcars. DDOT will also pursue a vehicle capable of operating without overhead wires in early 2011.

“These are exciting steps forward for the streetcar system,” said DDOT Director Gabe Klein. “They set in motion the final work needed to get the streetcars rolling for District residents, who can only benefit from more transit options and services.”

DDOT has also launched an Environmental Assessment (EA) and Historical Preservation Study (Section 106 Evaluation) for Phase 2 of the Anacostia Streetcar Line. DDOT is proposing an extension that will run from the Anacostia Metrorail Station to the 11th Street Bridges, providing service to the Downtown Anacostia business and Historic Districts, and across the 11th Street Bridge which will be streetcar ready when completed in 2013. The EA and study will identify the potential impacts of the project and devise ways to mitigate those impacts in accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).

In addition, DDOT is commissioning a Streetcar Finance Taskforce to develop a strategy to leverage private investments in future segments of the DC Streetcar network. It is anticipated that the 37-mile system will be funded by a combination of local, federal and private dollars, an investment that will pay great dividends by creating jobs, boosting property values and promoting economic development.

For more information about the DC Streetcar system, please visit our website at

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