D.C. streetcar to run across Hopscotch Bridge

The new trolley cars that are to begin rolling on H Street NE in 2013 will be routed onto the bridge over Amtrak rails so that they connect with Union Station.

Mayor Vincent C. Gray said Tuesday that the route was the best option for making that connection without disrupting the surrounding neighborhood.

(Sarah L. Voisin/THE WASHINGTON POST) - A construction worker in the 1300 block of H Street NE climbs out of a manhole in June.

The need to link the trolley line that will run down refurbished H Street from Benning Road with Amtrak and Metrorail at Union Station has been obvious since the planning stages. How best to do that had been cause for debate.

The 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 District Department of Transportation equipment.

That would have allowed for construction of a trolley station under the bridge on the west side of the Amtrak tracks, and trolley passengers could have walked directly into Union Station.

But Amtrak blocked that plan, concerned that it might need some of that space to accommodate envisioned high-speed rail service.

DDOT considered routing trolleys north when they reached the bridge, making a connection with Metrorail at the New York Avenue station. But some people in the neighborhood through which it would have passed raised objections.

As a result, in a meeting with those residents and business owners Tuesday night, Gray said that instead the trolleys would go over what is known as the Hopscotch Bridge.

“A connection to Union Station, even if it’s only an interim solution, is necessary,” Gray said. “It is critical we have this connection in place for the opening of the streetcar system in July 2013. The benefits afforded by a close connection to a regional transit hub are infinite.”

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.

“DDOT is getting ready to start a study to look at ways to improve transit connectivity from Union Station to the downtown and western end of the city,” said Terry Bellamy, DDOT’s director.

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. New shops and restaurants have begun to open on the street, and the city has invested in the creation of a boulevard with wide sidewalks, granite curbs, freshly paved traffic lanes and new landscaping.

 
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