The D.C. Council Wednesday approved stripping funds designated to bring streetcar service back to the city in an effort to close a $550 million budget gap.
The vote effectively delays the launch of the streetcars. The council still must vote on the change when it votes on the full budget later today.
The council voted to take $49 million for street car system and distribute it among other projects.
Gabe Klein, director of the District Department of Transportation, was lobbying furiously to save the funds from being redistributed.
"It will essentially kill the program," he said. "If they kill it, basically, it goes on ice."
The District has already put down the first miles of track for the planned 37-mile streetcar network, estimated to cost $1.5 billion to complete.
Pro-street car activists are furious and blame Sarah Campbell, capital budget director for the council, who is also a member of the Committee of 100 on the Federal City. The group has been opposed to the street car plan, particularly raising overhead wires in historically protected areas of the city.
Campbell Wednesday denied any personal motive, saying she is not opposed to overhead wires. But she raised questions about the transportation department's funding scheme. "It's not about me. It's about the funding commitments," she said, referring to other long-planned projects in the city's pipeline that remain unfunded.
The changes, she said, do not eliminate the program but delay it.