Section of streetcar system projected to open in spring

Correction appended

The first stretch of a new streetcar system connecting Union Station with the northeastern H Street corridor will hopefully open this spring, the District Department of Transportation said last month.

After more than a decade of planning, the $1.5 billion three-part, 37-mile system is intended to alleviate the congestion on D.C.’s current public transportation systems.

DDOT fears Metrorail crowding will be deemed “unmanageable” by 2013, and indicated that some Metrobus lines are currently operating at more than 100 percent capacity.

With DDOT reporting a predicted 32 percent increase of public transportation riders by the year 2030, the department said it hopes that the streetcar will offer an “attractive transportation alternative,” link neighborhoods, and encourage economic development along streetcar neighborhoods.

The proposed plan will specifically target neighborhoods with limited or no Metrorail service including Anacostia, H Street NE, Georgetown, Adams Morgan and Upper Georgia Avenue.

A ride on the streetcar line will cost $1, and riders can transfer for free with a SmarTrip card.

“I see the benefits of D.C.’s new public transportation options. I can’t wait to eliminate the walk to Georgetown and other neighborhoods,” freshman Stacie Buell said. “If [the streetcar system] is cheap and nicer than the bus system . . . why not use it?”

With no planned service in the immediate Foggy Bottom area, the closest planned stops are located on K Street and in Georgetown.

Though the streetcar plan is moving forward, funding for the project is still a lingering question. D.C. Council Chairman and mayor-elect Vincent Gray almost eliminated the program before finding additional funds last May.

At the same time, The Washington Post reported that the District government did not receive $18 million worth of grants from the U.S. Transportation Department and that zoning laws have been examined to try and implement taxation on certain districts, or charge additional fees to attain the money. The idea of public-private ownership has also been suggested.

Along with financial problems, technological and aesthetic problems have arisen as well. The prospective installation of overhead wires was illegal in D.C. until June, when the D.C. Council voted to allow construction of overhead wires on the H Street Benning streetcar line, reported Streetcars4DC, an organization of citizens rallying for the completion of this project.

This reported was updated on Nov. 4, 2010 to reflect the following changes:
Due to an editing error, The Hatchet incorrectly reported that the new street car section will open in spring 2011. The system is actually scheduled to open in spring 2012.

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