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You probably won't be able to ride the District's first streetcar line in 50 years until next spring or early summer, but D.C. officials are refusing to estimate a precise date now that the launch has been pushed into next year.
Ask the District Department of Transportation's chief engineer when the streetcar on H Street and Benning Road NW will carry its first passengers — and this is the best answer you'll get: "We will get passenger service going as soon as can."
Nick Nicholson used those words often during a briefing with reporters on Tuesday. "As soon as I can," he said to repeated questions about when the 2.2-mile streetcar line — the first in D.C. since the 1960s — would be ready to roll.
Nicholson said that he would not estimate a start date because the process of finishing the line contains so many variables, the most pressing being safety testing. He said he expects that the testing will begin in December along a very busy commercial corridor chock full of jaywalkers and double-parked delivery trucks.
A somewhat similar streetcar project in Tampa took three months to certify as safe and ready to go, but, again, Nicholson opted not to speculate what that would mean for D.C. "There is no precedent in D.C.," he said.
Another issue that remains unresolved is how much fares will cost, the hours of operation and how passengers will pay. All of those are being addressed as the District works with H Street merchants to prepare for the big changes to come in parking and deliveries.
The line is the first of what city officials hope will be a 37-mile network crossing from H Street to Georgetown and from Buzzard Point to Takoma or Silver Spring.