Photo by DDOTDC on Flickr.

The District Department of Transportation (DDOT) is stepping up its communication around the streetcar project, with a new website, a meeting to update residents last night, and better efforts to engage neighbors on issues like the maintenance facility on Benning Road.

A lot of work is actually going on to get the streetcar ready, but most residents don’t see it. That’s because one of the most visible pieces, installing tracks, happened first. It also happened extra early because DC was already planning to rebuild H Street.

It made sense to simply install tracks at the same time the city already rebuilt the road. However, this timing also meant that the tracks went in, followed by more behind-the-scenes work.

DDOT will be testing streetcars on a certification track on South Capitol Street, as well as finishing the designs for the car barn, starting studies on extending the line east and west, and much more.

Residents might be more able to keep up on what’s going on with a website DDOT launched today for the project.

Oh, and does the above screen capture mean that DDOT has selected “District At Your Doorstep” as the streetcar tagline?

The website includes a presentation from last night’s meeting. It includes updates on the work to construct the western turnaround at Union Station, a power substation at 12th and H, a pocket track on Benning Road, and the eastern turnaround at Oklahoma Avenue this year.

Also on the matter of communication, DDOT has withdrawn the car barn designs from tomorrow’s HPRB meeting. In a letter to preservation staff, DDOT Director Terry Bellamy writes:

It came to our attention over the weekend that several individuals, including Area [sic] Neighborhood Commissioners and other key neighborhood stakeholders were unable to view the presentation/application submitted by DDOT to the Board. In immediate response to the inquiries received we posted the concept drawings on the DDOT and DC Streetcar Program websites for review on Monday, February 25. We feel that appearing before the Board on Thursday, February 28, will not provide the stakeholder community with adequate review time.

Therefore, in an effort to allow for sufficient review time, we respectfully request that a hearing on the concept drawings be moved to the next regular Board meeting currently scheduled for March 28, 2013. Our goal, as an agency, is to be forthcoming with our community partners as we move through this process and we believe postponing our review date will assist with these efforts.

It did seem odd that DDOT has shown two sets of renderings to the federal Commission on Fine Arts and HPO but had little public outreach about the designs. They have met with a number of ANCs and community associations, though. The new design looks fine and should go ahead, but public input is an important component as well.


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David Alpert is Founder and President of Greater Greater Washington and Executive Director of DC Sustainable Transportation (DCST). He worked as a Product Manager for Google for six years and has lived in the Boston, San Francisco, and New York metro areas in addition to Washington, DC. He lives with his wife and two children in Dupont Circle. Unless otherwise noted, opinions in his GGWash posts are his and not the official views of GGWash or DCST.