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D.C. Shifts Streetcar Timeline, Now Says Service To Start 'Before End' Of 2014

A streetcar on H Street? At some point in 2014.
WAMU/Martin Austermuhle
A streetcar on H Street? At some point in 2014.

The timeline for the start of streetcar service along H Street and Benning Road NE has shifted again, and the D.C. Department of Transportation now says that the trolleys will run by the end of 2014.

Last year D.C. officials promised service by the end of 2013, then early 2014, and this April said that service could start by late summer or early fall. But this week those officials moved away from a specific timeline, saying only that the long-awaited trolleys would run at some point this year.

"It will be before the end of 2014," said DDOT spokesman Reggie Sanders.

Earlier this week DDOT moved two streetcars off of H Street and back to a testing site in Anacostia, where they will remain for six weeks. With that move and an extended safety certification left to be done, another delay in service is expected. (The Washington City Paper first on the setback.)

WAMU 88.5 confirmed today that delivery of a third streetcar from a Portland-based manufacturer — the three are set to join three Czech-made trolleys for service on H Street and Benning Road — was delayed. Originally due in D.C. on June 2, DDOT now says it won't get here before the end of the month. (As we reported as part of a recent four-part series on streetcars, all three streetcars from the Portland company have been delayed, resulting in over $100,000 in late fees.)

In addition, a temporary streetcar maintenance facility has yet to be finished, and D.C. hasn't yet specified what fares for the streetcar will be or how they will be paid.

Last month the D.C. Council cut funding for future streetcar lines, arguing that DDOT had mismanaged the H Street line. The cut prompted Mayor Vincent Gray to warn that a 22-mile network running from H Street to Georgetown and Anacostia to Takoma was imperiled.

City officials say that the next portion of streetcar lines will be outsourced to private firms under a contract to design, build, operate, and maintain them. With less funding available, they argue, the contract may have to be rescinded.

Some legislators have rejected those concerns, saying that DDOT has not spent the money made available to it and that the streetcars will still get close to $500 million over the next six years.

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