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Posted at 04:05 PM ET, 02/28/2012

DDOT hasn’t earned public’s trust on streetcars


The D.C. Department of Transportation has mishandled many elements of the streetcar project in the past year and is opaque about their plans. This is prompting calls for a new independent authority to plan, build and/or run the streetcars.

DDOT only has three cars today, and a procurement snafu means it might not have enough to run 10-minute headways. Couple that with problems nailing down the Union Station connection, tracks being deleted from the 11th Street Bridge and more, and council members are understandably nervous.

D.C. Council member Mary Cheh proposes splitting the streetcar off from DDOT into a new authority. Creating new boards and authorities can just replace old problems with a set of new problems, but unless DDOT shows it has the project under control soon, a separate authority may be the best way to ensure the project’s success.

At a roundtable last week, Director Terry Bellamy did little to reassure Cheh and council member Tommy Wells that DDOT has the project under control or that it is any closer to working out financing mechanisms for future lines.

There’s no time to waste. As I argued in a previous post and my testimony, we must couple promises to build a streetcar with a promise from local neighborhoods to help support it. Once a neighborhood’s planned streetcar line gets close enough to reality, there’s no incentive for local commercial property owners to agree to a value capture system, or local residents to agree to selective extra density along the commercial strip.

To address this, Cheh has introduced a bill to create a task force to make recommendations for a permanent governance structure. In her opening statement, Cheh noted that:

[Continue reading David Alpert’s post at Greater Greater Washington.]

David Alpert is founder and editor of Greater Greater Washington. The Local Blog Network is a group of bloggers from around the D.C. region who have agreed to make regular contributions to All Opinions Are Local.

By  |  04:05 PM ET, 02/28/2012

 
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