DDOT ditches plans to build a streetcar, lays groundwork for dedicated bus lanes

Media Credit: Hatchet File Photo by Grace Hromin | Photographer

The District Department of Transportation will build more bus lanes instead of the streetcar it announced two years ago.

The District Department of Transportation has ditched plans to run a streetcar through Foggy Bottom and will instead build dedicated bus lanes along the intended path.

The stop comes after a two-year-long effort to build a streetcar connecting Union Station to Georgetown on K Street, which DDOT officials determined was too costly to pursue in the short term, The Washington Post reported. Neighborhood leaders said they are “disappointed” in DDOT’s decision because the streetcar would have provided an affordable and efficient method to travel through D.C., but the bus lanes will still work to expand residents’ transportation options.

“As DDOT pursues the K Street Transitway (under a separate project) from 12th to 21st Streets NW, DDOT will design two miles of dedicated transit lanes (one mile in each direction) that will not preclude future conversion to streetcar,” a DDOT report states.

A DDOT spokesperson did not return a request for comment.

James Harnett, a senior and a Foggy Bottom and West End Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner, said DDOT should have used the millions of dollars allocated to the dedicated bus lanes to begin building infrastructure for a streetcar.

“I think at the very least we can build the infrastructure today to be able to support a streetcar for the future,” Harnett said.

He added that public transportation projects are expensive, but city officials should make investments in projects, like the streetcar, new Metro lines and bus service, to benefit large numbers of residents.

Commissioner Detrick Campbell said he’s pleased that DDOT is dedicating resources to building out dedicated bus lanes on K Street, but the department should continue to map out ways to improve transportation methods for D.C. residents.

“Moving from the street car to dedicated bus lanes is a great step forward and a great first step,” Campbell said. “However, I think being more cognizant of the needs of the city and the people that are here and visit here, there’s a lot more that they can do.”

He added that developing dedicated bus lanes can help the District meet its Vision Zero goal to reach zero traffic deaths per year by 2024. Ward 2 boasted the lowest number of traffic crashes in at least four years in 2019.

Campbell said he looks forward to how DDOT reprograms the city’s streets to make transportation accessible for as many people as possible.

“I am also interested in whatever they kind of help with making us more accustomed to in terms of reprogramming it to street to the more user-friendly,” he said.

Patrick Kennedy, the ANC’s chair and a candidate for Ward 2’s D.C. Council race, said many residents had lost faith in the streetcar project because the District’s plan on H Street faced several roadblocks.

“A lot of people had given up on it,” he said.

He said DDOT has historically struggled to “follow through” on projects and “take risks.”

“Not terribly surprising, since this had been on life support for years, but its conclusion is pretty symptomatic of our inability to follow through on long-term planning efforts or transit infrastructure improvements in the urban core,” Kennedy tweeted last week.

Commissioner Jeri Epstein said adding dedicated bus lanes to K Street prioritizes District residents’ transportation needs over the needs of commuters who drive into the city from Maryland and Virginia.

“I’m in favor of anything that improves transportation for the people of the District of Columbia,” she said.

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