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Should streetcar go to Minnesota Ave or Benning Rd Metro?

Once the initial H Street segment opens (now estimated for early 2014 at the earliest), the next step for DC's streetcar system is to extend the line east across the Anacostia River. DDOT will present the options in a report this month, but major decisions remain, such as whether to end the line at Minnesota Avenue or Benning Road Metro stations (or both).

H Street streetcar platform between 5th & 6th Streets NE. Photo by Elvert Barnes on Flickr.

DDOT staff and AECOM consultants told the approximately 50 attendees at a Nov. 27 public meeting that the government is focused on completing a streetcar line linking Ward 7 to Georgetown via H Street by 2025.

Its moniker, the "One City Line," references Mayor Vincent Gray's campaign slogan, which has become an official slogan of the District government. A study on the Union Station-Georgetown segment of the line will begin next year.

Having held the final public hearings as part of the study's final concept development phase, the study team will release its final report next month, which will be followed by the environmental impact review process.

Among the decisions left to be made is whether the Minnesota Avenue or Benning Road Metro station will be the line's (initial) eastern terminus, or if streetcars will serve both stations. The final report will present options for either terminus, but not both simultaneously. DDOT staff acknowledged that if the community put significant pressure on the DC Council to pursue having the streetcar serve both stations, that would be possible.

The other key unresolved question is whether streetcars will run alongside the curb or in the road's median as they continue east along Benning Road. The main disadvantage of curbside running is that it takes away on-street parking spaces, but median running means either widening the road or taking travel lanes away from motor vehicles.

Options for streetcar track placement at Minnesota Avenue Metro. Yellow indicates proposed streetcar platform locations; turn-around track shown in purple. Image from DDOT/

At either Metro station, both streetcar tracks will merge into one and extend briefly onto off-street right-of-way to allow streetcars to pause for several minutes and reverse direction. To be determined is whether this terminal track will be in the median of Minnesota Avenue or between the road and the Metro tracks (if Minnesota Avenue is chosen as the terminus), or in the median of East Capitol Street versus into the small parking lot next to the Benning Road Metro entrance escalator.

Options for streetcar track placement at Benning Road Metro. Image from DDOT/

Keeping the proposed streetcar configuration at Minnesota Avenue would mean taking at least one travel lane from the avenue. That would turn it from a 4-lane road with only a double yellow line in the middle to a 3-lane road, 2 regular lanes plus a center turn lane or a reversible lane like the one on Connecticut Avenue.

The study determined, however, that streetcar operation would not worsen existing traffic congestion at the Minnesota-Benning intersection, which is already over its designed capacity.

At Benning, having the terminus in the small Metro parking lot would allow streetcars going both directions to serve one platform and provide more convenient access to Metro, but would make it more difficult and expensive to extend the line farther east in the future. Having the terminal station and turn-around track in East Capitol Street's median, on the other hand, would make it simple to continue the line east to Capitol Heights Metro.

The study found there to be a "huge" demand for transit in the Benning Road corridor. The X bus line is overcrowded, and there are now more employment opportunities and activity centers in Ward 7, the Minnesota-Benning intersection being one of them. DDOT is also doing a lot of work on pedestrian safety around this intersection and along the block of Minnesota Avenue leading to the Metro station.

During the first round of public hearings, community members told DDOT they wanted to see bus and streetcar service integrated so that they don't duplicate each other. They also wanted more efforts at placemaking along the corridor, such as public art.

It will be possible to build streetcar tracks across the twin-span bridge that carries Benning Road across I-295 and the CSX railroad tracks, but it will require raising the entire road surface to the height of the tracks above the undergirding, or building new undergirding lower than the existing. There is enough room to do this while maintaining required highway and railroad clearances.

Malcolm Kenton lives in the DCís NoMa neighborhood. Hailing from Greensboro, NC and a graduate of Guilford College, he is a passionate advocate for world-class passenger rail and other forms of sustainable transportation and for incorporating nature and low-impact design into the urban fabric. The views he expresses on GGWash are his own. 


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The streetcar should go all the way to Benning Rd Metro. Way more potential to activate the corridor, and Minnesota Ave is still accessible via a 5-10 minute walk.

Going to Benning Road has been the plan in all the streetcar docs so far, why would they change it now?

by MLD on Dec 5, 2012 2:08 pm • linkreport

"When the initial H Street line opens (now estimated for 2014 at the earliest)...." ROFLMAO. Like that is going to happen.

by Tom M on Dec 5, 2012 2:26 pm • linkreport

I agree that the streetcar should extend all the way to the Benning Road metro. Benning Road has always been an important component of the "Great Streets Initiative."

by rkbradl on Dec 5, 2012 2:49 pm • linkreport

I would like to see it go to Benning Road Metro. There isn't a lot of residential right on Benning, which makes this ripe for redevelopment.

by Veronica O. Davis (Ms V) on Dec 5, 2012 3:28 pm • linkreport

Send it to Benning Road, like it has been planned to do this entire time. Then, work on extending it to Capitol Heights.

Service to Minnesota Avenue Metro(and possibly Deanwood?) can be handled via the planned extension of the Anacostia line, which, if I remember correctly, is slated to run up Minnesota Avenue in the first place.

by Justin..... on Dec 5, 2012 3:31 pm • linkreport

Dulles airport is clearly the correct answer.

by SC on Dec 5, 2012 3:34 pm • linkreport

Benning Road. It's more of a transportation and community center. Additionally, plans are underway to make East Capitol more bike and pedestrian accessible. Adding Streetcars would be a logical extension.

by Randall M. on Dec 5, 2012 4:03 pm • linkreport

I'll be surprised if phase 1 is open by 2017, let alone future phases. Make no mistake, this is being slow walked by the Gray administration and if Jack Evans replaces him you can expect the same thing.

by Phil on Dec 5, 2012 4:20 pm • linkreport

Take it to Benning Road, as originally planned! That way, the Streetcar will connect the Blue, Orange, and Red lines, as it should. Benning Road to Capitol Heights is less of a priority, IMO, because that connection is already served by a one-stop ride on the Metrorail, and/or by many bus lines.

by Bradley Heard on Dec 5, 2012 5:23 pm • linkreport


Good point about Capitol Heights. That might argue that East Capitol is not the place to put the terminus - and indeed that expansion beyond Benning station should go on some other street.I don't know that going to central ave (via the metro station or otherwise) is a great idea. Why not continue south on Benning?

by Lucre on Dec 5, 2012 6:46 pm • linkreport

It should go to Benning Rd and then either up Benning RD to the DC line or to Capitol Heights.

BTW X bus routes use to go up to Benning Heights and Capitol Heights from Benning RD about 2 decades ago before being cut so you cant say its a ridership issue as to why is should go to Minnesota Ave.

by kk on Dec 5, 2012 7:52 pm • linkreport

Actually come to think of it it should go to Benning RD, then up East Capitol then along Central Ave SE (there is no transit what so ever along Central Ave except for 2 blocks) then on Southern Ave to Capitol Heights that way they still go to the same destinations but also serve areas that before did not have transit.

by kk on Dec 5, 2012 7:57 pm • linkreport

Glad they are working on the planning for the extensions. I do think the initial segment will open in 2014.

I hope to see an equal amount of emphasis on the link to Georgetown as that will greatly increase the utility of the line for all.

by H Street LL on Dec 6, 2012 7:04 am • linkreport

There is no obvious reason to depart from the plan to extend the streetcar to Benning Road--but what one does after that probably requires comprehensive study in cooperation with MTA or M-NCPPC, rather than being an ad hoc extension.

The route that the Purple Line eventually takes from New Carrollton to the Woodrow Wilson Bridge is far from clear. A straight line would take it to Capitol Heights and along the entire length of Southern Avenue to Forest Height, making that line a cooperative venture with DC. A fairly straight "inner Purple Line" route would still be close to the DC line most of the way. An "outer Purple Line" might connect Morgan Boulevard or Addison Road Metro to Suitland to Temple Hills to Oxon Hill, while a Purple Line entirely outside the Beltway seems implausible.

Extensions of the DC streetcar lines and planning for the Purple Line extension need to be coordinated because with an inner Purple Line, the streetcar should connect to the Purple Line, and with an outer purple line, DC will eventually need a streetcar running parallel to Southern Avenue connecting up to the Green Line.

by JimT on Dec 6, 2012 7:50 am • linkreport

"I do think the initial segment will open in 2014."

You're fooling yourself. There will for sure be a lawsuit about the car barn location now that its site is historically designated. That'll take at least 2 years to sort out. Then the new mayor will want to do a "study" of the streetcar plans that will take 1-2 years. Then, if the plan hasn't been abandoned entirely, car barn and catenary construction has to take place, 1 year for that. That puts us at 2017-2018 for phase 1.

by Phil on Dec 6, 2012 10:40 am • linkreport

Nah manne.

Historic Review Board already said the designation won't stop the barn, they may just want some alterations to the building design. Nothing major.

Mayor and Council like having more money to spend and they know the streetcar will continue to boost tax revenues. All the important contracts have been awarded or bid out.

by H Street LL on Dec 6, 2012 10:42 am • linkreport

Agree that we'll see the initial line in 2014.

I'm more interested in timeframe for the westward expansion to Washington Circle or other downtown location (and eventually Georgetown). That's when the line really starts getting lots of riders.

by Nobody on Dec 6, 2012 12:32 pm • linkreport

And in 2015, DC will announce it is extending the streetcar line all the way into the 1920s! #20thcenturysolution

by BF on Dec 6, 2012 5:33 pm • linkreport

D.C. Resident’s cost for the H Street Trolley in 2008-$1.2 billion. The accumulated cost of the Trolley each delayed year before the 2014 projected opening - by 2012 it’s estimated at $ 2.1 billion.

Fools are the many who buy into this folly. Metro Subway fares are increasing (while service suffers) and the current bus lines serves both the east and west sides of Benning Road (Shrimp Boat to Union Station) very well. The Connector Bus line system needs an infusion of operating cash – remember the recent increase on fares.

Folks, we are being played. This Trolley serves no good benefit for city residents. The biggest game this century. A clever scheme; I speculate that it was created by a group of realtors and developers to increase the land value along the trolley tracks to induce their temptation to build high-end housing along the trolley lines. Fast and Simple.

Mayor Anthony Williams, and now Vincent Gray and this current council heads should roll for this $1 billion dollar never-never land scheme to benefit developers. And, at a cost to residents while our children need better schools, affordable housing, recreation centers with social and development programs (just not a building full of toys and televisions). One billion dollars should be invested in our children’s future, public schools, job training programs and opening up and fully equipping vocational schools.

Why wait until the jig is up in the questionable 2014 opening date? Why wait until the Washington Post finally gives up the truth about this scam in 2014? For those of you who only believe what the Post writes.

Why should you care? Because – our children are in need, right now for the success of their future to produce a living for themselves. Our seniors have carried us on their backs so far to afford us the quality of living and opportunity of living here in the District- they are in need also.

by Calvin H. Gurley on Dec 6, 2012 11:34 pm • linkreport

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