This guest post was submitted to All Opinions Are Local in response to David Alpert’s Oct. 6 post “Streetcar tracks deleted from 11th Street Bridge (for now).” Peter Rogoff is head of the Federal Transit Administration.
David Alpert’s Oct. 6 post wrongly suggested that the Federal Transit Administration and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) intentionally set up roadblocks to progress with respect to the District’s $300 million 11th Street Bridge renovation. That could not be further from the truth.
The U.S. Department of Transportation has always supported efforts to expand transportation choices across the country and right here in Washington, including advancing streetcar systems. However, as any state or city transportation department outside and inside the Beltway knows, there are laws and procedures that must be followed when seeking federal funding for a proposed project. Chief among them is the need to comply fully with the federal environmental review process, which is key to keeping the public informed of the potential impacts that federally funded transportation projects have on their communities.
Unfortunately, only after submitting all of its environmental reviews for the 11th Street Bridge did the D.C. Department of Transportation express interest in including streetcar tracks on the bridge. Consequently, the U.S. Department of Transportation had no choice but to deny the request.
Even then, FTA and FHWA jointly offered immediate solutions that DDOT could pursue if it still wished to include streetcar service on the 11th Street Bridge in the future, including reopening the federal environmental review process to evaluate streetcar requirements or completing an expedited FTA environmental review. FTA staff also suggested placing removable blocks on side areas of the bridge that could easily be replaced with tracks in the future. In a July letter, DDOT declined to pursue any of these options.
Still, these developments do not preclude streetcars from some day crossing over the Anacostia River. At this point, it is up to DDOT to determine how to proceed with bridge construction in a way that would cost-effectively allow for tracks to be added, consistent with federal environmental rules.
The U.S. Department of Transportation continues to stand ready and willing to work with DDOT to develop plans for a streetcar system and evaluate any future eligible applications for federally funded streetcar projects throughout the District.