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D.C. seeks federal funds to extend streetcar line

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By Lisa Rein
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, April 21, 2010

District transportation officials said Tuesday night that they have applied for federal funding to extend a streetcar line, now under construction on H Street and Benning Road NE, across the Anacostia River.

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If the funding is approved, the $74 million, two-mile link to the Benning Street Metro station would receive $25 million from the Obama administration's urban circulator program for transit projects.

It would be another step in the District's ambitious plan to build a 37-mile streetcar network to spur economic development in some of Washington's poorest neighborhoods.

Transportation chief Gabe Klein laid out the plan Tuesday at a community meeting at Wheatley Elementary school attended by about 100 residents of Northeast. The H Street-Benning Road line, funded by the District, is scheduled to open in 2012.

Klein said DDOT also plans to extend the H Street line to Union Station by building tracks on a right of way underneath existing Amtrak tracks.

The resulting underpass, now being designed, would provide streetcar riders "with a seamless connection to Metro and Amtrak service" at Union Station, said Scott Kubly, who is in charge of the streetcar project.

Streetcars are making a comeback in cities across the country. In the District, a plan to power the trolleys with overhead wires has come under fire from preservationists who are pushing a wireless system. Kubly said such a system could increase the project's costs threefold.

The District is pursuing a hybrid model that would run on overhead wires outside downtown, but switch to battery power in the Mall area and other parts of downtown.



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