Clang! Clang! Clang! The Georgetown & Foggy Bottom Trolley Co. is waiting around the bend, seriously hoping to bring old-fashioned street-cars back to Washington.
If the new nonprofit organization's plans come true, as many as four car lines using vehicles with nostalgic designs will someday crisscross Georgetown, carrying people to and fro from the Dupont Circle area and the Foggy Bottom subway station.
But there is a long way to go before the tracks can be restored where horse cars, cable cars and electric trolleys ran from 1862 until the last Georgetown streetcar line was replaced by buses in 1962.
The first step is a study to see if the trolleys are feasible - economically, operationally and environmentally. Only then would ways of financing and building a system be considered.
The Urban Mass Transportation Administration, part of the U.S. Department of Transportation, already has agreed to grant $250,000 in federal funds to pay for the study. James E. Clark, and assistant director of the D.C. Department of Transportation, said he expects a contract to be awarded next month to get the study started.
The Georgetown & Foggy Bottom Trolley Co., which was formed to supervise the study, is the brainchild of Ron Linton, a planning consultant and resident of Washington innercity Kalorama neighborhood. He said his personal firm would not be involved in the study.
Linton quietly lobbied his study proposal through federal, regional and local agencies. He recruited a volunteer board of directors to govern the new "public interest" streetcar company. Its members include such community leaders as Grosvenor Chapman, an architect; Thomas W. Owen, president of the Perpetual Federal Savings and Loan Association, and the Rev. Robert L. Pruitt, pastor of the Metropolitan AME Church.
Linton said his interest was sparked by a news item a couple of years ago describing a proposal to uncover old car tracks now buried beneath the asphalt surface of Georgetown's M Street. They would be used for trolleys that would shuttle back and forth to Metro's Foggy Bottom station at 23rd and I streets NW.
A subway stop was once proposed in Georgetown itself, but its construction was blocked, chiefly because the Georgetown Citizens Association feared swarms of visitors and unwanted development.
Since then, Georgetown congestion has constantly increased, the result of most visitors driving and trying to park in the area.
Linton said he views the proposed Georgetown system as "a people mover, a way of carrying both tourists and local people through the part of the city that contains most of its restaurants, specialty shops and (private) offices. . . . We are not talking about bringing back car lines all over the city."
Linton said he envisages a fleet of perhaps three dozen cars, all built new but designed with an old-fashioned appearance, not unlike the cable cars that are a magnet for visitors to San Francisco.
In fact, Linton said, the possibility should be explored of having cable cars instead of electric cars on the new Georgetown system. Cable cars are pulled by cables moving in a slot beneath the street, powered by machines at a central power station. Electric cars have their own motors, and draw current from an overhead or underground power cable.
Linton said the four possible routes might run from the old D.C. Transit car barn near Key Bridge to Foggy Bottom; from Georgetown University to the Dupont Circle area chiefly along P Street (where a car line ran prior to 1934): along Wisconsin Avenue from M Street, possibly as far north as Calvert, and from Georgetown along either L or M Streets to somewhere east of Connecticut Avenue.
Clark, the city transportation official, said one key question that must be answered is whether trolley tracks can be installed without disrupting automobile traffic.
"There is no way we can get rid of all the traffic," Clark said. "We've got to put it somewhere." CAPTION: Picture, Washington's last trolley went out of service in 1962, but there is an effort to bring them back to Georgetown. By Richard Darcey - The Washington Post