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The District Department of Transportation is launching a one-year study of a nine-mile, north-south streetcar line between Buzzard Point in Southwest D.C. and Takoma in Northwest, a key segment of a planned 22-mile priority streetcar system that is supposed to be part of a District-wide transportation network with Metro buses and the D.C. Circulator.
The north-south line would cross multiple neighborhoods: the Southwest waterfront, downtown, Shaw, Columbia Heights, Petworth, and Takoma, and would involve crossing the National Mall. Engineers will spend the next 12 to 14 months examining the construction challenges each neighborhood presents while DDOT’s outreach staff will work with the public about traffic and parking concerns.
“There are going to be issues with things like crossing the mall. There are going to be historic view sheds. There are squares and circles that make it difficult from a traffic perspective to figure out how a service such as this would work,” said Jamie Henson, the project manager at DDOT.
DDOT will be tasked with assessing the transportation needs in the planned streetcar corridor. Four Metro bus routes that carry 60,000 passengers per day currently run parallel to the possible streetcar path.
“The streetcar would not replace those bus routes, and that is part of what the study is for, to figure out how the streetcar will integrate, so that we have a better integrated service throughout our city to better serve our residents,” Henson said.
While each neighborhood along the nine-mile route presents unique challenges, one issue is relevant everywhere, said Veronica Davis, DDOT’s public outreach coordinator.
“People are concerned about how this will impact traffic, how it will impact parking. Those are some of things we are going to have to look at as part of this study,” she said. “One of the things we will do at the first meeting is to try to find out from the residents, how do you move now? Where do you go and how to do get there?”
Once this initial study is completed and the environmental approval process is underway, DDOT will be looking for a contractor to design, build, finance, operate and maintain the streetcar, Metro buses whose routes are entirely within the District’s border, and D.C. Circulator – as part of a public-private partnership. Project spokeswoman Dara Ward said finding a contractor to handle all aspects of the transportation network’s construction and operations would speed up its completion.
“We feel it could take around five years to get these 22 miles built out and if the District had to do this piece by piece it could take anywhere from 17 to 20 years to get this done,” she said.
DDOT plans to begin the public outreach process and meet with neighborhood stakeholders in the coming weeks. The agency is asking the public to sign up for future meetings here.