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Today I sent this message to Council Member Wells:

As a constituent who has lived on the Hill since 1977, and as an avid user and promoter of public transportation, I are writing to express a number of concerns about DDOTÂ’s street car plans for Capitol Hill.

1) One hearing is not enough! Hold at least two more public hearings on Capitol Hill – One public meeting is not adequate for your constituents to understand the implications of a new streetcar line, particularly along 8th St. Last night’s Ward 6 meeting was not well-publicized within our community. Many of us who want to learn more were not able to attend. I urge you to hold at least two more hearings on the impacts of this proposal for Capitol Hill with special outreach to the businesses along Barracks Row, the civic community and the many residents along this route before proceeding with legislation and further funding of the streetcar line.

A recent meeting of the Capitol Hill Restoration Society was to have featured a DC DOT representative to discuss streetcars. No one from DOT showed up and the result is that we all feel quite uninformed about this issue.

2) Demonstrate the need for streetcars along 8th St. As one who frequently uses the buses along 8th St., I am unclear why we are investing heavily in new infrastructure rather than upgrading existing bus service and acquiring more energy efficient vehicles.

Further, the cityÂ’s key rationale for adding streetcars to the mix of transportation alternatives is to spur economic development along the corridor. Barracks Row is already thriving and does not require a streetcar to bring people to shop there. The buses are packed with people who connect to Metro. Further, most of 8th St. is residential from Pennsylvania Ave. to H St. Is there some intention that this corridor will be rezoned for commercial development? This is certainly not envisioned in the Comprehensive Plan.

3) Overhead wires are unsightly, not in keeping with the city’s past efforts to underground utilities and will negatively affect the tree canopy. Battery technologies are developing rapidly. Why would the city commit itself to a system that will change the visual character of our streets? It is not only the “monumental views” that are important; it is also the beauty of our residential streets that will be compromised by the addition of overhead wires. I am opposed to legislation that seeks to overturn protection of city streets from new wires.

4) Delay legislation, appropriations and the EIS that will launch an expensive new city-wide system until residents have had an opportunity to raise their concerns and until DDOT and the Council can address those concerns. DDOT has failed to show why the city should spend $1.5 billion (that will surely be far larger) for a new system as opposed to investing these funds in critically needed basic upgrades for Metrorail and Metrobus. Even as our beloved Metro cannot meet its basic financial needs for safety improvements, acquisition of new cars and completion of plans that have been anticipated for many years, we are being asked to support a new system with many unresolved problems that will, inevitably, compete for funding with the existing under-funded system.

There is considerable concern on Capitol Hill about this matter. A number of us feel that City Hall and DDOT are abruptly rushing to action without real public engagement. DDOT has mapped routes, bought cars and made commitments that now are the justification for barreling ahead. We are suspicious of the forthcoming EIS: Will it look at ALL alternatives or just at the current plan vs. no action.

While DDOT may have studied the benefits of streetcars for years, the public has not and the agency has yet to answer basic questions. One aspect of promoting smart growth is to promote smart public expenditure in infrastructure. To date, DC officials have not made a convincing case for streetcars.

Thank you for your service to Ward 6 and for considering these concerns.

by Meg on Oct 23, 2009 7:56 pm • linkreport

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