The DC Streetcar’s H Street and Benning Road segment has been its most controversial. Here’s a look at how we arrived at today.
The H Street and Benning Road corridor has been part of proposals for a crosstown streetcar line from Georgetown since WMATA’s 2002 Transit Development Study. Some of the first proposals came from agencies that weren’t DDOT, like one in the Office of Planning’s H Street Strategic Development Plan in 2003.
By January 2006, DDOT announced that the Great Streets Initiative, a $43 million fund to rebuild H and Benning’s roadbeds, would include money for streetcar tracks. The plan was to build a 3.5-mile line from Union Station to the Minnesota Avenue Metro.
Laying down tracks in 2007 made the streetcar line’s route more permanent, save for its termini. In 2008, DDOT decided to delay the line’s eastern connection to a Metro station on the other side of the Anacostia River. Also, there was still no set location for a western terminus near Union Station (an issue that remained in question for several years).
Initial work on the line concluded with the completion of the Great Streets project late 2011. While DDOT’s DC Streetcar System Plan called for the streetcar to start running in the spring of 2012, a lot of questions about the line still remained unanswered. Among them were where to place the line’s western terminus near Union Station, whether to put a maintenance facility near a high school, and, most importantly, how to fund the project.
As the city tackled these issues, construction resumed in December 2012. Substations, overhead wires, and tracks went in, and streetcars began testing. A study of an extension of the line to Benning Road Metro station also began that year.
That brings us to today
DC Streetcar vehicles have been rolling down H and Benning in simulated service since the fall of 2014, but they’ve yet to carry passengers. The reasons why have not been easy to come by, and a lot of people have wondered if the line will ever open at all.
When the Bowser administration came in, DDOT dropped previous deadlines and reassessed. After a peer review found no “fatal flaws,” Mayor Bowser committed to completing the full planned line to Georgetown.
Still, we don’t know when the H Street and Benning line will actually open.