For ten years, city officials in D.C. have been promising a return of streetcars. They are now testing some already-purchased cars. More are on order. And passenger service could begin before the end of the year.
On Saturday, the public was invited to inspect the three streetcars that are now being tested on tracks laid in Anacostia alongside of I-295. Those three cars, and three more being built in Portland, Oregon, will soon be switched to the tracks that have been laid on H Street and Benning Rd., in Northeast Washington.
That's where the first revenue line will open after testing without passengers. "We want people along that corridor to get used to seeing the vehicles [roll] up and down the street," explained Dara Ward, a spokesperson for the streetcar division of DDOT. "And for the operators to get used to the traffic patterns before they [start] hauling passengers."
More and more shops are opening on H Street, NE in anticipation of the arrival of streetcars. Anwar Saleem grew up on H Street, and he now owns several buildings there. Saleem told us, "We attracted over 27 new businesses every year for the last six or seven years -- over 180 new businesses (and over 2,000 jobs), and a majority of that is [because of] the trolley. I think that's tremendous."
So that the beautiful views of the federal city wouldn't be blocked, more than a century ago Congress decreed that DC trolleys would not have overhead wires. But these new trolleys, through an exemption from city council, will be allowed to string wires. NE resident Monte Edwards laments that decision: "The nation's capital deserves the viewscapes we have now uncluttered with overhead wires."
Edwards says some European cities are already using rechargeable battery packs to power streetcars. DC officials say: when that technology is perfected, they'll consider adopting it.
Meanwhile, expect wires to go up on H Street, and test trolleys to be rolling there in the next few months.
WTTG FOX 5 & myfoxdc
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