Monday, March 16, 2009

Anacostia streetcar line construction looms

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Three years after an initial construction attempt was aborted, the 1.3-mile Anacostia streetcar line in southeastern Washington, D.C., is nearing a construction start, according to the District Department of Transportation.

The adjusted route, moved to enhance local travel options instead of serving just “commuter” traffic, will run from a streetcar maintenance facility on South Capitol Street to Martin Luther King Ave. and Good Hope Road. The route will offer a transfer to and from the Anacostia Metro Station, and also serve the new Department of Homeland Security headquarters.

The original route ran almost entirely on the ex-C&O Alexandria Branch; the adjusted route departs from the right-of-way to traverse Martin Luther King Ave., the main business street within Anacostia, before returning to the rail right-of-way. 

DDOT says the $25 million project should be completed in 18 months, at which point three Skoda-Inekon streetcars, currently still stored in the Czech Republic, will begin service.

City Council member Jim Graham says the reroute not only serves more local needs, but offers better options for future expansion, including access to a new 11th Street Bridge across the Anacostia River just north of the first stage's planned terminus. DDOT officials also have expressed a desire to run streetcars along H Street, where ongoing road resurfacing includes installation of streetcar tracks for such a purpose. Graham, supporting the move, said, “"The H Street route makes an awful lot of sense.”

Restrictions on overhead wires for much of the city preclude catenary construction for streetcars and light rail operating on streets in the nation’s capital, at least for the present, but Anacostia falls outside the restricted zone.

Anacostia streetcar route