Historic Designation More Than Doubles Cost Of D.C. Streetcar Car Barn | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio

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Historic Designation More Than Doubles Cost Of D.C. Streetcar Car Barn

A rendering of the car barn, which will be located on the campus of Spingarn High School along Benning Road NE.
D.C. Department of Transportation
A rendering of the car barn, which will be located on the campus of Spingarn High School along Benning Road NE.

A key component of the streetcar line on H Street and Benning Road NE has just gotten more expensive — and history is to blame.

Earlier this month the D.C. Department of Transportation (DDOT) informed the D.C. Council that the cost of building the facility, known as a car barn, would more than double, from $10.7 million to $25.3 million.

The increase stems from the location of the car barn, on the campus of Spingarn High School on Benning Road N, which in 2012 was granted historic designation, forcing DDOT to rework initial designs.

"The historic landmarking initiated fundamental changes to the proposed facility, yard, and property which were aesthetic, architectural, and structural enhancements to complement the historic context of the Spingarn Campus," wrote William Teague, a contracting officer at DDOT, in an email to the Council.

The car barn is a vital component of the 2.3-mile streetcar line emerging on H Street and Benning Road NE. Along with allowing for maintenance work on streetcars, it will also serve as a training center for operators and house a community center.

When Spingarn's campus was chosen for the car barn in 2012, nearby residents protested, saying that it would mar the campus of the 60-year-old high school. In late November 2012, the school and its campus were granted historic designation by the D.C. Historic Preservation Office, adding layers of review to any proposed designs. Final designs were approved in October 2013. The school was closed earlier this year, but is expected to be renovated and reopened as a technical school.

While the car barn's construction takes place, a temporary car barn is also being built — but the costs of that one have also increased, from $6.2 million to $11.2 million.

All told, the cost of the contract for the design and construction for the car barns and related utility work on H Street and Benning Road increased from $50 million to $79.2 million, to be paid out of $400 million in capital funds allocated by Mayor Vincent Gray for streetcars.

In his email to the Council, Teague warned that any further delays on the construction of the car barns could further delay passenger service, which was recently pushed from 2013 to early 2014.

"Without a completed temporary or permanent operation and maintenance facility, the streetcar segment on H Benning cannot continue system certification tests at the pace required to achieve passenger service in a reasonable time and budget," he warned.

According to DDOT, $161 million has already been spent on streetcar construction on H Street and Benning Road and for a short segment in Anacostia. Planning has started on a segment to Georgetown and one linking Buzzard Point to Takoma or Silver Spring.

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