As part of our look at the evolution of streetcar planning across the region, here’s the history behind what was supposed to be DC’s first modern streetcar line.

2002’s Anacostia starter line. Images from DDOT unless otherwise noted.

The District of Columbia Transit Development Study, which came out in 2002, called for a 7.2-mile starter line that would connect the Minnesota Avenue and Anacostia Metro stations to the Waterfront and Navy Yard stations, which sat across the Anacostia River. It was DC’s first modern-era streetcar proposal.

The next step was the Anacostia Corridor Demonstration Project, a July 2003 study of the possibilities for a first phase of this route. The city considered using various transit modes, including streetcar and DMUs, on CSX’s 2.7-mile Shepherd Branch industrial spur, from Pennsylvania Ave SE to Bolling Air Force Base.

Construction starts for the Anacostia streetcar…

After an environmental assessment wrapped up in April of 2004, the city ordered three streetcars from Inekon DPO. There was a groundbreaking ceremony that November, in anticipation of a fall 2006 opening.

But two days after the ceremony, CSX announced that it wouldn’t allow the District to use Shepherd Branch. The change of plans stalled the project. Negotiations carried on for months until DDOT relented in 2005, shifting the route from the railroad tracks and onto the streets. In doing so, the city scaled the streetcar’s northern terminus back to Good Hope Road SE, just short of the 11th Street Bridge.

Though residents were unhappy with the realignment, construction began in earnest in September 2009. DC’s three streetcars, which had sat in storage in the Czech Republic since 2007, finally arrived the following December.

…and then it ends

Workers finished installing rails for the first contract phase of the construction project August 2010. At the time, the city had yet to award a contract for further work. Anacostia residents weren’t interested in pushing for the line, so H Street became a higher priority for a streetcar. The only part of the line the city finished was the half-mile of rails that run from Fifth Sterling Ave SE, just west of Suitland Parkway, down part of South Capitol Street.

What’s there today. Image by the author.

DDOT completed a Testing and Commissioning Site at the southern terminus of this stub track in 2013, but no other physical construction has been completed since. The full planned route, whose northern terminus was relocated to Buzzard Point in DDOT’s 22-Mile Priority System, remained in planning efforts despite funding concerns, and studies of extending the line into historic Anacostia happened as recently as 2014.

Finishing the Anacostia line would have been DDOT’s next priority had funding for streetcar expansion remained in place. At this point, the Anacostia line’s future is quite uncertain, as the new District administration has made no specific mention of the Anacostia line in its immediate plans for the DC streetcar network.

Peter Dovak was a graphic design contributor for Greater Greater Washington and the creator of the site's "G" logo. A Kentucky native, he lived in Arlington from 2011 until his death in 2017 working as a project director for a company specializing in promoting high-speed rail and maglev projects.