The D.C. Department of Transportation (DDOT) has held a series of community meetings at the Atlas Theater to discuss the upcoming Street Car project that will run along the H St. corridor. Two meetings were held in the month of December, with Mayor Gray and Ward 6 Council Member Tommy Wells (D) and other Advisory Neighborhood Commissioners (ANC) and community leaders present.
The H Street/Benning line will run from west of First Street, NE to east of Oklahoma Avenue NE and is expected to open in mid-2013. Passenger service there may begin before service on the pilot Anacostia line, is expected to open.
The meeting was initiated at the request of the ANC commissioners and involved stakeholders of the H Street/Benning Road residents and businesses. DDOT set up four stations staffed with experts to listen to citizen concerns and to provide information to the public.
A Portland, Oregon-based firm, United Streetcar LLC, a subsidiary of Oregon Iron Works Inc., won the $8.7 million deal to design, test, and manufacture and deliver two streetcar vehicles plus parts. They will supply two 144-passenger streetcars for D.C.’s 2.2-mile H Street/Benning Road NE line.
After being forced by Amtrak to abandon earlier plans to connect the line to Union Station through the H Street tunnel, in recent months DDOT considered several other options and ultimately narrowed it down to two options. The first would end at the top of the Hopscotch Bridge on H Street, and riders would enter Union Station along a walkway through the parking garage. The second would stop at Second and F Streets NE (near the Securities & Exchange Commission building) by way of a loop south of H Street. The meeting represented a hopeful step toward greater community outreach and information dissemination on the part of DDOT.
The meetings have proved to be an important step forward for DDOT and the Gray administration, both in demonstrating that they are taking key next steps to ensure public engagement and input on the coming project.
A D.C.-based firm did the public engagement for the project, Capitol Services Management Inc. The outreach covered residents living as far west as the 400 block of 3rd Street, NE and as far east as 2500 Benning Road, NE. Seventy‐five invitations were sent to businesses along the corridor by way of email.
The meetings were so well attended; staffers had to turn away residents who could not fit into the Atlas theatre. There was standing room only!
Residents who attended the meetings were allowed detailed input during a question and answer period. Most concerns involved traffic flow, noise levels and student safety.
DDOT ultimately hopes to create a 37-mile streetcar network serving all eight wards. Mayor Vincent Gray has included $99.3 million for the project in his six-year capital improvement program.