Residents heard about the maintenance yard for the H Street NE streetcar line, how it will tie in to Union Station, and how the streetcars will be powered at Tuesday’s meeting hosted by DDOT in Ward 5’s Trinidad community.
DDOT’s Scott Kubly presented illustrations to the packed gymnasium at Wheatley Education Campus showing how the western end of the H Street line will continue below the railroad tracks, ending at a maintenance yard under the Hopscotch Bridge. Streetcars could be running in service by the spring of 2012.
William Shelton, chairman of ANC 5B, introduced the meeting, and Councilmember Tommy Wells spoke of the importance of linking Wards 5 and 7 to Union Station (“from which you can travel to anywhere in the world”).
DDOT Director Gabe Klein stressed that the city is working on the “three P’s: public safety, public schools, and public spaces,” and said improving these will bring business, development, and families back to the city. He mentioned the fact that the city had over 800,000 residents at its peak in the 1950s and that the population is now increasing.
Mr. Klein also made news by stating that DDOT is working with the National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC) on a compromise regarding overhead wires as a power source for the streetcars, stating NCPC is “very open to compromise.”
Finally, Scott Kubly took the stage to discuss some of the details of the H Street/Benning Road streetcar line. DDOT has submitted a
$63 $25 million grant application to the FTA to make the H Street line fully functional and extend it across the Anacostia River to the Benning Road Metro station. (The $25 million figure is part of an additional $75 million that is needed, along with $63 million that has been proposed for the FY2011 budget, to complete the H Street NE/Benning Road project. These figures are based on corrections from the comments.)
Mr. Kubly also mentioned his hopes for an overhead wire compromise with NCPC. An interesting fact he brought up (which was difficult to hear due to the fact that he was battling serious laryngitis) was that a wider pantograph on the streetcars would mean even less obtrusive wires are required to produce the necessary power for the cars.
The three streetcars that are currently being stored in Greenbelt will soon be brought to the District for citizens to have an opportunity to walk through the cars and see them firsthand.
The western end of the H Street line, which currently ends at 3rd Street NE, will continue two blocks west via a hole punched through the Hopscotch Bridge, crossing 2nd street at grade, and by entering the old H Street tunnel under the railroad tracks, similar to the tunnels at K, L, and M Streets. The entrance to the H Street tunnel is visible at the right hand side of this historical photograph, taken in 1969.
After crossing under the tracks, the streetcars will emerge at 1st Street NE, cross the street at grade, and enter a maintenance yard under the Hopscotch Bridge between 1st Street and North Capitol, concealed from public view.
Three new power substations will provide power for this line, located at 26th Street and Benning Road NE (just north of the kiosk library), a vacant lot at 1215 Wylie Street NE, and under the Hopscotch Bridge in the 200 block of H Street NE. Each will measure approximately 15 by 40 feet, and will be constructed to blend in with the surrounding area.
The platform at 1st Street NE will connect directly to the north mezzanine of the Union Station Metro station via a tunnel that was started but never completed in 1975 when the Metro was built. 510 of the tunnel’s 600 feet is complete; the remaining 90 feet will have to be dug as part of the current construction. DDOT plans a single platform and track here, as there is currently not enough room for a parallel track and platform due to limited space and ADA requirements for space to enter and exit the streetcars.
The temporary eastern end of the line (at Benning Road and Oklahoma Avenue) will consist of a short stub track that allows for eastbound streetcars to turn back towards Union Station. That stub will be integrated into the route towards the Benning Road station when that part of the line is completed.
Construction at the ends of the line should commence in Fall 2010, and be complete by Winter 2012, allowing the streetcars to begin running in Spring 2012.
DDOT put the presentations online immediately after the meeting. This one shows details of the H Street and Benning Road lane configurations, the facilities at each end, the car layouts, electrical substation placements, overhead wire designs, and more. This one talks about the overall citywide streetcar plans and the extension to Benning Road.
The question and answer session was very cordial, with most people asking short questions about operational issues including how traffic would be affected, automobile parking, signage for the deaf community, and safety concerns for the elderly. A couple queries about the status of streetcar propulsion (the overhead wire question) were raised, but there was none of the contentious back-and-forth that might have been expected.
At the end of the evening, the principal of Wheatley asked those of us in the audience to help stack the chairs and clean up the gym since the staff had gone home for the evening. We gladly lent a helping hand, thanked the presenters, and stepped back out into the comfortable night air.
Cross-posted at The District Curmudgeon.