As previewed by GM earlier in May, the DC Department of Transportation (DDOT) held a meeting last night to announce the status of the plans for a westward expansion of the streetcar to Georgetown. Right now, after too much delay, a line runs along H St. east of Union Station. It was always planned that this line would continue westward through downtown and reach Georgetown. Last night the planners announced several big decisions they have made about the project.
GM would summarize those, but frankly, Greater Greater Washington already did it better than he would. So read there to find out about how they want to use a lot of dedicated lanes and won’t use overhead wires.
GM will instead focus on how the plans would address Georgetown.
They have narrowed the build options down to two. One would have dedicated lanes (i.e. lanes that only the streetcar [and maybe buses] would be able to use) for practically the whole stretch from Union Station to Georgetown. The other option would not have dedicated lanes between Georgetown and Washington Circle.
Having dedicated lanes is crucial to the success of a streetcar line, especially one going through the congested parts of downtown. But dedicated lanes come at a cost of space that would otherwise be used for general traffic and/or parking.
In Georgetown, the line would come in on K St. underneath the Whitehurst. Here what the road would look like with the dedicated lanes:
Right now on the easter end of K St., there are two travel lanes in each direction and a center turn lane. West of Thomas Jefferson, there is only one travel lane in each direction, with a lane of parking.
With the dedicated lanes there would be just one travel lane in each direction for general traffic. Parking would appear to be eliminated.
This is likely to draw a lot of criticism. GM knows someone in particular who practically has an aneurism whenever the idea of dedicated transit lanes in Georgetown is discussed.
Part of that concern stems from the fact that the way this stretch of road is currently designed is already pretty awful. For instance, cars heading east on K St. get backed up for blocks waiting to get on Rock Creek Parkway every afternoon. The only way dedicated lanes will work is if these other problems are addressed at the same time.
One solution the BID has already put forward would be to allow cars to directly access Rock Creek Parkway even during rush hour (which is not allowed now).
Also, more intriguingly, DDOT is proposing to build a new loop to allow cars heading west on K St. to access Rock Creek Parkway without a left turn:
No matter what, these are not final plans. And we’re years and years away before the first shovel goes in. But it shows that the biggest message DDOT took from the criticism over the H St. line is that streetcars in mixed traffic are bad. (That’s not necessarily, true, mind you. But it’s the message DDOT was given.) So it will guide DDOT’s path from here on out.