D.C. seeks federal funds to extend streetcar line

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.

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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