Like many of her neighbors in the Kingman Park community of Ward 7, Beverly Mullins is looking forward to the day when trolleys start rolling up and down Benning Road. But she’s not happy about where the street cars might be parked overnight: just across Benning near her home.
Mullins is one of hundreds of Kingman Park residents organizing to stop a city proposal that calls for a trolley car barn near the eastern terminus of the H Street/Benning Road line. The 14,000-square-foot facility would sit on a grassy swath of Spingarn High School’s grounds and house several trolley cars at night, according to the proposal.An additional dozen or so cars might park on the grounds as the system adds more trolleys. The facility also would be an operations base and maintenance facility where workers would be trained to fix the street cars.
Residents said they are concerned that the $13 million car barn will create a noise nuisance, disturbing their quiet community of single family homes. Furthermore, residents point out that the proposed barn would sit among three local landmarks: Spingarn, Langston Golf Course and Langston Terrace Dwellings, the first public housing project in Washington.
“This is an industrial use they want to put in a residential neighborhood,” said Mullins, who has lived in the community for 27 years.
Lisa White, an advisory neighborhood commissioner, said that the community feels the project was foisted upon them.
“They never asked our opinion,” she said. “They just said: ‘here it is.’”
John Lisle, a spokesman for the city’s department of transportation, said that the site at Spingarn worked the best because it helped keep costs down and presented the right amount of developable space. He disagreed with residents concerns about noise.
“It’s going to be an enclosed building so I think the noise will be less than some people think,” he said, adding that the street cars are slated to begin running in 2013. “We’re sensitive to community’s concerns and we certainly want to minimize the impact on the community.”
Lisle said that the proposal was developed after extensive study by DDOT’s engineers. Other options either cost too much or were owned by the federal government, which might slow down the project’s timetable, he added. He said the proposal did not have to go before a legislative body for approval.
White said residents are unbowed. “We’re going to continue to attend meetings, send emails and ask about alternative sites,” she said.
In the shadow of RFK Stadium, Kingman Park's boundaries are 15th Street NE to the west; C Street SE to the south; Benning Road to the north; and Anacostia Park to the east. The residents frustration with the proposed car barn dovetails with their belief that their community is seen as a dumping ground for industrial business. Recently a tire repair shop opened on Benning Road, illustrating for some in the community that their neighborhood is losing its residential feel.
“We’re not opposed to the street car...I think that will be wonderful,” said Cosby Washington, who has lived in Kingman Park for 25 years. “But we’re concerned that this car barn will be by a high school, will be on a main thoroughfare and it will not be attractive to the neighborhood.”
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