DC Streetcar Extensions Are ‘a High Priority' for Budget

WASHINGTON — The DC Streetcar would run to the Benning Road Metro station by 2023, with a future extension to Georgetown under Mayor Muriel Bowser’s budget proposal.

At a D.C. Council committee budget oversight hearing last week, District Department of Transportation Director Leif Dormsjo said the streetcar projects and the related bridge replacements are “a high priority, but very complicated,” so he could not yet give an exact projected start date for the Benning Road extension.

Over six years, the budget allocates $199 million for the DC Streetcar extension from Oklahoma Avenue Northeast across the Anacostia River to the Benning Road Metro Station.

That would put the city “in a solid place in terms of advancing the Benning Road extension,” Dormsjo said, ahead of the completion of an environmental review and additional public meetings later this year.

The funding is expected to cover planning, design, construction and the additional streetcar and road improvements connected to the project.

The planning process includes decisions on the locations of stops, how the streetcar crosses the Anacostia River, and any bridge improvements at intersections like Minnesota Avenue Northeast.

“That bridge is the linchpin for the eastern extension of the streetcar,” Dormsjo said.

Today, the steep slope of the bridge makes the intersection dangerous for drivers too; a rebuilt and strengthened bridge over the CSX tracks there is expected to address that.

Dormsjo hopes a clearer schedule of Benning Road extension milestones will be completed later this year.

Right now, he said, DDOT is conducting additional noise and vibration studies in the community at the direction of the Federal Highway Administration.

The existing 2.2-mile streetcar opened in February 2016 after years of delays.

Rides remain free, as the city has yet to implement a way to pay.

Westward bound, too

There is an additional $165 million in the proposed budget over 2019 and 2020 to replace the Hopscotch Bridge at the other end of the streetcar line behind Union Station.

The Hopscotch Bridge replacement would allow for longer-term plans to extend the streetcar west to Georgetown.

It would also help Amtrak realign Union Station’s rail yard to accommodate newer, longer trains and allow for a major development above the rail yard.

DDOT is working with the federal government and Union Station leadership to coordinate the project, Dormsjo said, and that bridge could go out for bid within the next 18 months.

For that long-planned project to happen, Amtrak must have the funding to realign the rail yard and make other changes.

The Union Station and Amtrak portion of the work — including the rail yard changes and development above the tracks — can only move forward if the bridge project is funded.

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