Thursday, May 27, 2010

D.C. streetcar funds cut, then restored

Written by 

Efforts to (re-)establish the first streetcar route in Washington, D.C. were first dashed, then resurrected, in a 24-hour period, as the City Council first cut $47 million in funding, then restored the amount Wednesday following a public outcry, fueled in part by email and blog activity.

The H Street Streetcar, estimated to cost $60 million, already is under construction along its namesake street and on Benning Road in the city’s Northeast quadrant.

Funds originally were cut when D.C. Council Chairman Vincent Gray said the streetcar line, part of a larger, long-range plan, it needed more planning, including power source options given the ban on overhead wires in much of the city.  But news of the cut, reported by the Greater Greater Washington blog, generated substantial public outcry, prompting the council to restore funding.

“What a splendid relief this is,” said Councilman Jim Graham, a supporter of the project. “The streetcars are back on track. We will not have a delay.”

The H Street Streetcar currently is slated to begin service in 2012, though six more streetcars are needed to supplement three cars already acquired from Czech Republic-based Inekon Group a.s.

House Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), considered on of thetop U.S. proponents of light rail transit and streetcars, reportedly called council members urging the body to reconsider any cuts in funding. “We're working with a dozen cities that are in some stage of streetcar programs. None has more promise than the District of Columbia,” Blumenauer said.