The Plan To Expand DC's Streetcar to Georgetown

  • May 18th 2016

by Nena Perry-Brown

The Plan To Expand DC's Streetcar to Georgetown: Figure 1
A rendering of the streetcar, via cox, graae and + spack architects

In the few months since the city opened a new streetcar line along H Street NE — the first such mode of transit in DC in over 50 years — ridership has been respectable. However, based on the arduous experience of making the line operable, many are cautiously curious about whether or how the 21st-century version of a planned streetcar network will be implemented in the rest of the city.

Last night, the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) hosted what was the third of several public meetings — and the first since 2014 — to discuss potentially expanding the streetcar to Georgetown. The extended line would continue across the Hopscotch Bridge where the current line stops, turn down New Jersey Avenue and follow K Street under the Whitehurst Freeway to end on the Georgetown Waterfront.

Two options for this 3.5-mile streetcar extension were presented on Tuesday, and although many questions were raised, the overall response to the prospect of extending the streetcar network was positive.

The first option would yield a line which has dedicated streetcar lanes along 28-51 percent of the tracks, with the streetcar and Metrobuses sharing a lane on K Street between 12th and 21st Streets. The remainder of the line would also be open to vehicular traffic, similar to how the existing line operates.

The second option would create dedicated streetcar lanes along 73-90 percent of the tracks, also allowing commuter buses to share the dedicated lanes and only allowing vehicular traffic around Mount Vernon Square and New Jersey Avenue, with potential to share along H Street NW also.

A prior proposal, since abandoned, would have utilized the existing service lanes on K Street, but the plan was found to be too costly due to the abundance of underground utilities and the impact on sidewalks along that area.

The Plan To Expand DC's Streetcar to Georgetown: Figure 2
A median-aligned streetcar with a center stop

Four styles of streetcar stops were on display Tuesday night, with two options for either curbside or median placement. DDOT is likely to explore a hybrid approach to powering the streetcar line in order to avoid the unpleasant aesthetic of overhead lines and the potential unreliability of underground currents. In this method, rigid catenaries at station stops, or fixed overhead powering systems, would replace underground wiring and recharge the streetcar for 20-30 seconds. Overhead wires would be strung under the Whitehurst Freeway and Washington Circle.

The Plan To Expand DC's Streetcar to Georgetown: Figure 3
A median-aligned streetcar with dual-side stops

Currently, DDOT (overseen by the Federal Highway Administration) has joined forces with the Federal Transportation Authority to carry out the required analyses under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), as well as historic preservation concerns along the route. The study area is from 3rd Street NE to just past 34th Street NW.

After taking into consideration the public’s concerns and suggestions, DDOT will have another meeting in the fall where more concrete details will be revealed. The NEPA and historic preservation analyses are expected to be complete by next spring or summer, at which point the planning team will decide next steps and formulate a more solid timeline.

“It really depends on what comes out of [the study process],” Jamie Henson, Supervisory Transit Management Planner for DDOT stated. “The hard part about these urban projects is that they’re really complicated, so we do the studies to get a better idea of what the problems are.” Henson’s best guess was that from the completion of the study phase, it can easily be another 5-8 years before more streetcars are on the ground — 3 to 5 years for designing, planning and procurement, then another 3 or 4 years of construction.

This article originally published at https://dc.urbanturf.com/articles/blog/ddot_holds_public_meeting_to_discuss_streetcar_extension_to_georget/11246.

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