Wednesday night DDOT hosted an open house at Hyde-Addison to discuss the city’s plans for a brand new streetcar network. The long term plans for this network include a branch into Georgetown. This would bring an end to the nearly 40 years that Georgetown has been without streetcars (which traveled Georgetown’s streets for about a century before they were shut down).
The saga that is the DC streetcar effort has been well documented at GGW, among others. Long story short: During the Williams administration, DDOT performed a study for DC’s transit future. The study concluded that better interneighborhood transit was necessary. This was to be achieved through the use of multiple tools including streetcars and bus rapid transit.
The first streetcar line was to run through Anacostia. This is about when the plans spun off the tracks, if you can pardon the pun. Questions about the route and just who exactly owned the CSX tracks increasingly made a mockery out of the ground breaking ceremony staged in 2002.
But new DDOT Director Gabe Klein, along with Councilmember Tommy Wells, have rededicated the city towards building an ambitious streetcar network. Initially lines will go to Anacostia and along H St. NE. If all goes as planned, the network will eventually look like this:
For Georgetown, this will mean a streetcar coming from Washington Circle down K St. to somewhere around 33rd St. This line will travel from Georgetown down K St. all the way to New Jersey Ave. where it will snake down to H St. It will then pass Union Station (where it will be incorporated into the Union Station Intermodal Transportation Center) and continue on along H St. NE until it reaches Benning Rd.
The Georgetown extension is not planned to be built until the second of three phases. DDOT is hoping to finish all three phases in seven to nine years. That would probably mean streetcars would reach Georgetown in four to six years. Although further delays are probably inevitable.
The big issue when it comes to streetcars in DC is how to power them. All over the world streetcars are powered with overhead wires. However, in central DC (including Georgetown) overhead wires are prohibited by federal law. DC will probably end up using a hybrid system involving some overhead wires and batteries. There is zero chance that any overhead wires will go up in Georgetown.
Finally, you’ll notice from the map above that there’s an arrow going from K and Wisconsin northward. That’s because DDOT is considering Wisconsin as an extension to the Georgetown line. That could mean that it gets incorporated into the third phase or it could just mean that it would be among the first expansions considered after the 37-mile system is built.
In reality, besides the H St. and Anacostia lines, nothing is set in stone. The true driving force will be whether the city can find money for the system. That’s a huge ‘whether.’