D.C. wants streetcars to roll by mid-2013

Streetcars should be bustling along H Street by the summer of 2013 as the corridor between Benning Road NE and Union Station rebounds from decades of decline and neglect, the District Department of Transportation said Monday.

With the last phases of paving, curb and sidewalk reconstruction nearing completion, the District is moving forward with contracts that will put newly installed streetcar rails to use.

(Sarah L. Voisin/THE WASHINGTON POST) - By 2013, streetcars should be bustling along H Street, city officials have said. In June, construction was ongoing on the electrical phase of the project.

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Four companies have emerged in the bidding process to complete the remaining pieces necessary to begin trolley service, and DDOT is seeking a company to operate and maintain the system.

Eventually trolleys may run farther out Benning Road to the Benning Road Metro station, and it’s possible they could run up to K Street and west out to Washington Circle.

With 2.2 miles of tracks in place on H Street, overhead power lines are needed as well as designs for the area where streetcars will reverse direction at either end of the line. A car barn and maintenance facility must be constructed along with three brick power substations to power the trolleys.

Platform trolley stops were built during the reconstruction of H Street and Benning Road.

A decision also must be made on how the cars are going to traverse the Amtrak rail lines out of Union Station.

A bridge carries H Street over the rail lines. Original plans called for punching an opening through at the foot of the bridge so that streetcars could pass under the railway tracks. Space under the tracks already exists, much of it now used to house DDOT equipment.

A trolley station constructed under the bridge on the west side of the Amtrak tracks would have allowed trolley passengers to walk directly into Union Station.

That plan was abandoned recently after Amtrak said it might need some of that space to accommodate envisioned high-speed rail service.

Now DDOT is giving preliminary consideration to several options. One would put the streetcars on the bridge, another would reroute them north to connect with Metro’s Red Line at the New York Avenue station and the third would be a variation on the original but the streetcars would turn around under the railroad tracks rather than connecting to Union Station on the west side.

“Whoever gets the contract will help us decide how to do it,” DDOT spokesman John Lisle said.

The car barn and maintenance facility would be constructed near the eastern end of H Street and may house a training program that would instruct public school students in the principles of streetcar operations and maintenance, DDOT said.

The H Street line is an initial part of a streetcar system designed to cover 37 miles in the District, with the goal of serving about 150,000 riders a day in all eight of the city’s political subdivisions.

Plans to revitalize H Street from Third to 14th streets NE have been discussed for years, with city planners envisioning that the more affluent Capitol Hill populace would creep north to H Street. As new shops and restaurants have begun to open on the street, the city has invested in creation of a proper boulevard with wide sidewalks, granite curbs, freshly paved traffic lanes and new landscaping.

 
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