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DDOT reveals more streetcar details in Trinidad

Residents heard about the maintenance yard for the H Street NE streetcar line, how it will tie in to Union Station, and how the streetcars will be powered at Tuesday's meeting hosted by DDOT in Ward 5's Trinidad community.

Photo by erin_m.

DDOT's Scott Kubly presented illustrations to the packed gymnasium at Wheatley Education Campus showing how the western end of the H Street line will continue below the railroad tracks, ending at a maintenance yard under the Hopscotch Bridge. Streetcars could be running in service by the spring of 2012.

William Shelton, chairman of ANC 5B, introduced the meeting, and Councilmember Tommy Wells spoke of the importance of linking Wards 5 and 7 to Union Station ("from which you can travel to anywhere in the world").

DDOT Director Gabe Klein stressed that the city is working on the "three P's: public safety, public schools, and public spaces," and said improving these will bring business, development, and families back to the city. He mentioned the fact that the city had over 800,000 residents at its peak in the 1950s and that the population is now increasing.

Rendering of streetcar stop along Benning Road. Image from DDOT.

Mr. Klein also made news by stating that DDOT is working with the National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC) on a compromise regarding overhead wires as a power source for the streetcars, stating NCPC is "very open to compromise."

Finally, Scott Kubly took the stage to discuss some of the details of the H Street/Benning Road streetcar line. DDOT has submitted a $63 $25 million grant application to the FTA to make the H Street line fully functional and extend it across the Anacostia River to the Benning Road Metro station. (The $25 million figure is part of an additional $75 million that is needed, along with $63 million that has been proposed for the FY2011 budget, to complete the H Street NE/Benning Road project. These figures are based on corrections from the comments.)

Mr. Kubly also mentioned his hopes for an overhead wire compromise with NCPC. An interesting fact he brought up (which was difficult to hear due to the fact that he was battling serious laryngitis) was that a wider pantograph on the streetcars would mean even less obtrusive wires are required to produce the necessary power for the cars.

The three streetcars that are currently being stored in Greenbelt will soon be brought to the District for citizens to have an opportunity to walk through the cars and see them firsthand.

The western end of the H Street line, which currently ends at 3rd Street NE, will continue two blocks west via a hole punched through the Hopscotch Bridge, crossing 2nd street at grade, and by entering the old H Street tunnel under the railroad tracks, similar to the tunnels at K, L, and M Streets. The entrance to the H Street tunnel is visible at the right hand side of this historical photograph, taken in 1969.

Renderings of streetcars descending through the Hopscotch Bridge (left) and in the tunnel under the railroad tracks (right). Images from DDOT. Click to enlarge.

After crossing under the tracks, the streetcars will emerge at 1st Street NE, cross the street at grade, and enter a maintenance yard under the Hopscotch Bridge between 1st Street and North Capitol, concealed from public view.

Schematic of the maintenance yard (left), 1st Street NE (center), the Union Station stop, and tracks toward H Street (right). Image from DDOT. Click to enlarge.

Three new power substations will provide power for this line, located at 26th Street and Benning Road NE (just north of the kiosk library), a vacant lot at 1215 Wylie Street NE, and under the Hopscotch Bridge in the 200 block of H Street NE. Each will measure approximately 15 by 40 feet, and will be constructed to blend in with the surrounding area.

The platform at 1st Street NE will connect directly to the north mezzanine of the Union Station Metro station via a tunnel that was started but never completed in 1975 when the Metro was built. 510 of the tunnel's 600 feet is complete; the remaining 90 feet will have to be dug as part of the current construction. DDOT plans a single platform and track here, as there is currently not enough room for a parallel track and platform due to limited space and ADA requirements for space to enter and exit the streetcars.

The temporary eastern end of the line (at Benning Road and Oklahoma Avenue) will consist of a short stub track that allows for eastbound streetcars to turn back towards Union Station. That stub will be integrated into the route towards the Benning Road station when that part of the line is completed.

Construction at the ends of the line should commence in Fall 2010, and be complete by Winter 2012, allowing the streetcars to begin running in Spring 2012.

DDOT put the presentations online immediately after the meeting. This one shows details of the H Street and Benning Road lane configurations, the facilities at each end, the car layouts, electrical substation placements, overhead wire designs, and more. This one talks about the overall citywide streetcar plans and the extension to Benning Road.

The question and answer session was very cordial, with most people asking short questions about operational issues including how traffic would be affected, automobile parking, signage for the deaf community, and safety concerns for the elderly. A couple queries about the status of streetcar propulsion (the overhead wire question) were raised, but there was none of the contentious back-and-forth that might have been expected.

At the end of the evening, the principal of Wheatley asked those of us in the audience to help stack the chairs and clean up the gym since the staff had gone home for the evening. We gladly lent a helping hand, thanked the presenters, and stepped back out into the comfortable night air.

Cross-posted at The District Curmudgeon.

Geoff Hatchard lived in DC's Trinidad neighborhood. The opinions and views expressed in Geoff's writing on this blog are his, and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer. 


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DDOT plans a single platform and track here, as there is currently not enough room for a parallel track and platform due to limited space and ADA requirements for space to enter and exit the streetcars.

So, what happens when the line gets extended towards downtown? A single-track section there will be a huge bottleneck.

From the diagram, it looks like the columns of the H Street underpass are too close to the streetcar doors to allow for a platform right there without blocking the doors - I'm curious how DDOT plans to resolve that issue long term. Taking out columns would be a big engineering challenge.

by Alex B. on Apr 21, 2010 8:48 am • linkreport

Geoff, a clarification: the $63 million figure is for the project from Union Station to Oklahoma Ave...and is funded in the city's budget. The grant application is for $25 million to extend the streetcar east to the Benning Road Metro station...with that project being $75 million total.

One other note regarding technology. It was asked if the 3 cars already purchased would be retrofitted with whatever streetcar technology DDOT goes with. Scott Kubly responded that it's being investigated. A follow-up question asked what would be done with those cars if they couldn't be retrofitted, but I didn't get a clear answer to that follow-up.

by Froggie on Apr 21, 2010 8:49 am • linkreport

Alex: that was the same question I had. A member of the audience, who apparently works on/for railroads (didn't catch which one) was very vocal about that. But there wasn't a clear answer on it. Theoretically (listening to someone else at the meeting), when DDOT extends the line west of the tracks, it would go over the Hopscotch Bridge instead of underneath it.

On a related note, I took a drive along 1st St NE on my way home from the meeting. There's some stonework that would have to be removed in order to get the line through to the maintenance facility on that end of the Hopscotch Bridge.

by Froggie on Apr 21, 2010 8:54 am • linkreport

Froggie: If you look closely at the street view images on Google Maps, it looks like the stonework that blocks off the tunnel area under the bridge is something akin to formstone, not actually as substantial as the true stonework to the north and south of the area under the Hopscotch Bridge. If so, that might make opening up the area for the maintenance facility and the platform relatively simple.

by IMGoph on Apr 21, 2010 8:57 am • linkreport

Well, I don't think you'd have to go over the bridge exactly - you'd just lose some of the storage capacity in that maintenance yard by turning those stub tracks into through tracks and building another tunnel portal at H and North Capitol like they plan on doing at H and 3rd NE.

The obvious solution would be to have two tracks there and two side platforms - the challenge would be that the current underpass columns would seemingly block the doors from platform to streetcar - A problem you could solve with a surgical removal of a few columns, but that presents some engineering challenges.

by Alex B. on Apr 21, 2010 9:01 am • linkreport

Geoff: thanks...haven't been down there during daytime so I couldn't tell for sure. I also noted a couple of heavy doors at that location, but the doors were obviously not large enough for a streetcar to pass through.

Alex: that's exactly it...the bridge columns. To make the streetcar station connection to Union Station ADA-compliant, there wasn't enough room in between the columns for the bridge to have two tracks AND a platform. As Scott Kubly noted, you'd wind up with a case of a streetcar door opening up right in front of a column.

Hence the theory that DDOT would route the line over the bridge when they extend it west.

by Froggie on Apr 21, 2010 9:15 am • linkreport

I'm glad that DDOT is finding a negotiating partner in NCPC, rather than the groups like C100 and CHRS which appear to either be not willing to negotiate or will only negotiate in bad faith.

by Michael Perkins on Apr 21, 2010 9:16 am • linkreport

@Geoff, EXCELLENT report! Thanks for the detailed and unbiased reporting on what occured at the meeting. You're living up to the standard that our traditional journalism used to hold themselves to. Keep up the good work, I look forward to reading more of your posts.

by Lance on Apr 21, 2010 9:31 am • linkreport

"Construction at the ends of the line should commence in Fall 2010, and be complete by Winter 2012, allowing the streetcars to begin running in Spring 2012."

Was that Winter 2011? Or can they start operations before completing construction?

by HM on Apr 21, 2010 9:34 am • linkreport

HM: Winter 2012 would be January, February, and March. Spring 2012 would be April, May, and June, so the operations would not happen before completion of construction.

by IMGoph on Apr 21, 2010 9:37 am • linkreport

Lance: Thanks. I have pretty strong opinions about this entire program, but I just wanted to get the new information out there without coloring it with my personal thoughts (at least not too much, anyway).

by IMGoph on Apr 21, 2010 9:38 am • linkreport

Of course, it's possible I just got the conventions wrong - one might think of Winter following Fall rather than preceding Spring in a calender year, or is that just me.

Regardless, this is a great report on great news. Thanks!

by HM on Apr 21, 2010 9:39 am • linkreport

One other note regarding technology. It was asked if the 3 cars already purchased would be retrofitted with whatever streetcar technology DDOT goes with. Scott Kubly responded that it's being investigated. A follow-up question asked what would be done with those cars if they couldn't be retrofitted, but I didn't get a clear answer to that follow-up.

From the diagram, it looks like the columns of the H Street underpass are too close to the streetcar doors to allow for a platform right there without blocking the doors - I'm curious how DDOT plans to resolve that issue long term. Taking out columns would be a big engineering challenge.

You both asked good questions. Questions to which DDOT didn't have clear answers to because ... they don't need to be concerned about these matters if you read between the lines and see what is occuring.

I've said right along, the had the cars in storage (from a lightrail demonstration project that didn't occur because of a lack of planning ... i.e., no one asked CSX FIRST if it would be okay to use their tracks for the project.) DDOT had already spent $1 million and needed something to justify the lack of previous planning AND the fact that the streetcars were sitting in storage (for 4 years!) in the Czech Republic of all places! The mayor needs to show he can just 'get things done' in this election year, and Tommy Wells is ready to jump on anything that seems environmentally friendly ... Put all that together and you have a dangerous combination. You have a 37 mile streetcar system being planned where none of the stakeholders in a position to do anything about it, have any stake in the matter past the intial H St NW/ Benning Road stage. I.e. They can't see paste this stage and they don't need to. This stage will see them through to 2012.

Enter NCPC. Will the NCPC really care whether H St NE's views are protected or not? Of course not. And of course they'll comprise on that section ... Which, as already stated, is of course the only segment of this '37 mile/$1.5B' project that our stakeholders with the power to do anything really only care about.

I.e., We're allowing them to set the stage for a one-line streetcar 'system' running east of the Union Station ... and no more. The Committee of 100 has been fighting to know 'where are the plans for the 37 mile system'? 'where are the plans for the $1.5B+ funding that will be required?' 'where are the alternative technology system studies so that you can deal with NCPC when you start to build streetcar lines in areas that the NCPC really DOES care about?'

Of course none of that is forthcoming from DDOT because that isn't their concern ... or their aim. They're building a single segment line. Not the whole system that we want. And it's been convenient for them to demonize the organizations asking the hard questions. A lot easier than to actually answer them.

I hope this meeting was an eye opener for those of you who previously thought DDOT was doing the planning to bring us a 37 mile / $1.5B + streetcars system that we all can use.

by Lance on Apr 21, 2010 9:47 am • linkreport

Thanks for the detailed recap Geoff. This is great!

by Inked78 on Apr 21, 2010 9:51 am • linkreport

Although a short single-track bottleneck kind of stinks, it shouldn't hurt the system too badly. In all honesty, it'll be no worse than waiting for a red light.

(Also, are there any plans for pedestrian/bicycle access to/through the station from 2nd St? Seems like there'd be room for one in the tunnel.)

by andrew on Apr 21, 2010 9:58 am • linkreport

Lance: DDOT hinted that they've done more planning than you're giving them credit for...but that the planning isn't in an easily digestible form yet.

Andrew: hard to say. Pretty much all of the questions regarding 2nd St NE revolved around whether the street would remain open to traffic after construction, and how the streetcar tracks would cross 2nd St.

by Froggie on Apr 21, 2010 10:03 am • linkreport

one thing i heard at the meeting is that there will be 12 stops along this line.
including the terminal stops.
anyone get a picture of that slide?

by choo choo on Apr 21, 2010 10:10 am • linkreport

choo choo: Look at slide 10 on this PDF, and I believe you'll see the stops you're looking for.

by IMGoph on Apr 21, 2010 10:14 am • linkreport


Aren't you the same "Lance" that said that Reservoir Road, NW (a four lane transit way) could not handle express shuttles between Georgetown University and Dupont Circle?

by question on Apr 21, 2010 10:16 am • linkreport

@question "Aren't you the same "Lance" that said that Reservoir Road, NW (a four lane transit way) could not handle express shuttles between Georgetown University and Dupont Circle?

uh ... no. I said that Reservoir Road should continue to be used vs. re-routing the shuttles through the 'shorter' Georgetown sidestreets as was being proposed in the post.

by Lance on Apr 21, 2010 10:23 am • linkreport

Actually, I'm confusing Reservoir Road with the extension of M Street that leads to the University's vehicular entrance. Correct, Georgetown U. has a vehicular entrance already that serves as the main entrance for such purposes. There's no reason to create additional ones, especially given the fact that Reservoir Road is a mainly neighborhood street and NOT the '4 lane transit way' that you are describing it as. Unless you are considering banning parking on both sides of it 24 hrs a day, I'm not sure how that road can justifiably be considered a '4 lane transit way'.

by Lance on Apr 21, 2010 10:28 am • linkreport

DDOT has been working on transit expansion in general and streetcars pretty specifically dating back to at least 1997. They have produced voluminous studies and reports, some of them running to hundreds of pages and many of them containing excellent information about the need for expanded and improved transit service in neighborhoods not well served by Metrorail. How many more years of studies and research should we have? 5? 10? 20? Should I just plan on experiencing an improved DC transit system in a subsequent life? Calls for more studies are pretty obviously nothing more than an attempt to kill this project through attrition. If you are against the project, for whatever reason, that's fine. Just say so.

Now....cue up a condescending response about how the Committee of 100 is the only responsible organization in this City protecting us from the crazy schemes of a DDOT bureaucracy run amok with crazy plans (Streetcars?!? No city in the world has ever tried that before!) and how the remaining 599,900 of us for whom they profess to speak should just shut up and be thankful that a self selected, elitist group is looking out for our best interests.

by rg on Apr 21, 2010 10:46 am • linkreport

Actually the main entrance to the Georgetown hospital (and its emergency room) is on Reservoir Road so it is hardly a sleepy neighborhood street; ambulances travel on it day and night. Cars basically treat it like a highway, and parking is illegal during rush hour and seldom used most other times.

At this time it is not permitted to turn left onto Canal Road from the campus during rush hour, so this purported "main vehicular entrance" is actually useless for anyone wanting to travel into the city or to Virginia during major commuting periods.

by re: lance on Apr 21, 2010 10:47 am • linkreport

Do we know yet how steetcars will be prioritized vs. bus vs. car vs. truck traffic? I would say it's reasonable to set the precedence this way:
streetcar/bus, trucks, cars

Streetcars and busses should never have to wait for red lights and should rarely, preferably never, turn left. Perfectly straight line routes are even better. Delivery trucks or weighty useful trucks (not the family pickup) should have priority in lanes, and finally single occupancy cars.

Streetcars and busses should also have dedicated lanes, perhaps they could share the same lane, but it would be odd to have a bus route and streetcar route running on the same stretch.

If a streetcar is ever going to have to wait for a red light or be stuck behind some single occupancy cars, then they are a complete waste.

by james on Apr 21, 2010 10:55 am • linkreport

In regards to the planned extension to Benning Road Metro, I really like the proposed stop at Kingsman Island. Finally, there will be an easy way for most of us car-less District yuppies to not have to use Zipcar to visit DC's truly park like grounds.

by Alex on Apr 21, 2010 11:05 am • linkreport

Any word on head-ways and travel times? It looks like 6 stops on the line planned for 2012. With signal and lane priority, it can be a nice zippy ride.

by HM on Apr 21, 2010 11:24 am • linkreport

@IMGoph regarding the tunnel, I swung by there this morning on my bike and it definitely does appear to be a different material under the hopscotch bridge. At the door that is cut in the middle, it looks like concrete covered by a ~3-4 inch thick formstone type substance.

And thanks for the great summary for those of us that could not make it last night!

by chuck on Apr 21, 2010 11:39 am • linkreport

Enter NCPC. Will the NCPC really care whether H St NE's views are protected or not? Of course not. And of course they'll comprise on that section ...
What views, pray tell? Of an ugly concrete bridge? Of an ugly storage facility? The oh so lovely Hechinger Mall? Of boarded up buildings and vacant lots with chain link fence?
The only way we're going to have attractive "views" is if H St is much more revitalized than it already is -- and street cars should help. But there never will be monumental views.

I was at the meeting. The questions that I didn't think they answered solidly enough -- and I did feel sorry for the DDOT guy with his throat issues -- were:
1. how will they address double-parked cars? A friend pointed out this is a major issue in Philly. I'd recommend aggressively and quickly towing with high penalties and maybe that would stop it pretty quickly. or else cow-catchers.

2. The WMATA rep's explanation of the bus stops didn't make sense to me once I went back and looked at the plans. If the buses are in the inner lanes and the street cars in the middle lanes while the outer lanes are for parking, how do people safely get off the bus?

by lou on Apr 21, 2010 12:21 pm • linkreport

Unless you fix the schools, you will never come close to 800,000 people in DC. The school system is THE barrier to progress right now.

You can streetcars and open spaces, and all that, but if sending your child to a public school in the city is akin to abuse and neglect (and in many parts of the city it is), you will never stop parents from moving to MD and VA.

by urbaner on Apr 21, 2010 12:23 pm • linkreport


I agree that efforts to improve schools are critical to growing the city. Without it, we are wasting our time.

But what's DDOT supposed to do? Say "Screw it, our schools suck so we're not going to do our jobs and provide the best transportation possible for city residents?"

Also, those of us who send our kids to DCPS, and see the incredible effort that so many parents, students, teachers, and administrators do might find it kind of offensive to say that that decision is "akin to abuse and neglect", even with the qualifier you added.

The schools need work. There isn't a stakeholder out there that doesn't agree with that. There is heated discussion on how best to do that, and should be, but sitting on the sidelines and whining about it isn't a solution.

by TimK on Apr 21, 2010 12:33 pm • linkreport

what Timk said. There are many great public schools in DC. Yes, it would be greatergreater if they were all great.

by Bianchi on Apr 21, 2010 12:52 pm • linkreport

Maybe I don't get the diagram in the link, but how will this streetcar line be extended west toward the White House, GWU, Georgetown, etc. if this maintenance facility is located where it is?

by Dan on Apr 21, 2010 1:11 pm • linkreport


Whether you realize it or not, the schools are being fixed as we speak. Instead of a failing school system, we now have an improving school system.

The city's population is also growing. I would never say never about reaching 800,000 people. We've done it once already in the city's history, and we'll most likely be doing it again.

We already have great schools in DC, and we'll be adding more schools to that great list instead of the other way around. I look forward to seeing this progression occur.

I like that there will be a direct connection at Union Station for the streetcar system. I also like that the maintenance yard will also be under the bridge. I also have worries about how the system will be expanded to the west in this configuration. I've seen the statements about how they would just route trains westward over the bridge. But nonetheless, there is a precedent (a good one) being set with the streetcar's Union Station platform being built under the bridge with its direct connection to the Metro. I would not want to see that go away when the system is expanded. So, I eagerly wait to hear more plans as that gets resolved.

I also think that the H Street bridge will start looking more like a hill with the cut-through for the streetcars and once the decks get built on each side of the bridge and buildings gets added with the air-rights development. I think it'll look quite cool by then.

by otavio on Apr 21, 2010 1:49 pm • linkreport

Dan: It would appear that they could punch a hole through the west side of the bridge, run track to New Jersey Avenue, then turn down K Street NW towards downtown. Perhaps by then, the network will have increased in connectivity, and a larger maintenance facility will be available elsewhere.

by IMGoph on Apr 21, 2010 1:50 pm • linkreport

The past 5 years have seen a revolution in Capitol Hill public elementary schools. Parents who are looking to enroll in the 5-6 quality schools on Capitol Hill face waiting lists in the hundreds. Obviously there's demand, and more are coming online every day. There are also decent H.S. options in DC, too.

Middle school is currently a problem, but for parents of young children, you're looking at a decade to sort things out. And there's a big difference between saying, "No one with children can live in the city because of the schools" and, "Some parents may have to move out of the city when their kids hit middle school."

by oboe on Apr 21, 2010 1:54 pm • linkreport

After walking through Wheatley (which is K-8) for the streetcar meeting last night, I can at least say that the facility is first-rate. The principal has been written up in the WaPo a few times for being an innovative guy and good leader. With good teachers, I'd be happy to send kids there someday, since it would be our in-boundary elementary.

by IMGoph on Apr 21, 2010 1:57 pm • linkreport

This is the grant Kubly was talking about for researching new power systems for streetcars:

by kate on Apr 21, 2010 2:55 pm • linkreport

After reading the presentation and the comments, I know that I would be MUCH, MUCH happier if DDOT would just publish a short engineering report about how they plan to punch this line out the otherside of Hopscotch and across North Capitol.

by tom veil on Apr 21, 2010 3:25 pm • linkreport

Building a light rail line without including Ward 7 and east of the river neighborhood smacks of, well, red-lining. Talk about a grand scheme coming up short. For the folks in Marshall Heights, Parkside, and Benning Heights, this light rail could be an actual improvement in linking the neighborhood to H Street and Capitol Hill. There is a lot of bus connections being made from MN Avenue buses and metro.

Without that link, riders have to switch from WMATA bus, to light rail, to metro, and it doesn't appear that any of those connections are seamless.

by mtp on Apr 21, 2010 3:46 pm • linkreport

mtp: I'm not sure what you are getting at here. This line will be extended across the river to the Benning Road Metro station. The initial part of the line already constructed actually runs along the part of Ward 7 west of the river. It's going to take another year until you see that construction, but it's on its way.

Accusing DDOT of "red-lining" is counterproductive. People will be less likely to listen to your arguments if you accuse them of being racist or classist when there is clearly no evidence of the sort.

by IMGoph on Apr 21, 2010 3:50 pm • linkreport

There's also another streetcar already under construction in Anacostia.

by David Alpert on Apr 21, 2010 3:58 pm • linkreport

What about $$$ for additional streetcars? I seem to recall DDOT or someone else saying that they needed 6 streetcars just to operate the H St. line. We already have three, so were are the other three going to come from? Have funds been allocated in this years budget to purchase additional cars? Whats the expected delivery times on new streetcars?

On a somewhat unrelated note, after looking at the rendering I really wish DDOT would do something to beautify the "police-state" fencing that runs along either side of the Hopscotch bridge. If they're going to be smashing holes in the bridge can they at least also put in some new, possibly more dignified fencing/walls on the hopscotch?? Pretty please?

by JJ on Apr 21, 2010 4:22 pm • linkreport

RE: double parking.

it wont be an issue on H since the streetcars will be in the middle lanes.

by peace on Apr 21, 2010 4:31 pm • linkreport

peace: Actually, the streetcars will be running in the lane next to the parking lane on H Street NE, so it could be an issue. They'll be running in the middle lanes on the Benning Road segment.

by IMGoph on Apr 21, 2010 4:33 pm • linkreport


In the long term, the hopscotch bridge won't really seem like a bridge at all, as it will be flanked on both sides by the air rights developments over the Union Station tracks.

by Alex B. on Apr 21, 2010 4:35 pm • linkreport

Well, it looks like a red line to me!

But, the point is, that the DC's spending $63 million in local dollars on a line that doesn't connect across the river, and hoping to get $25 million in federal funds to build across the river in the future. What if the feds don't provide the money?

I don't think folks here are racist in the least, if you need me to say that. And, I'm sure they want to build as much light rail as they can.

But, there is a long legacy of leaving out areas east of the river, or leaving those areas as an after thought with broken promises later on. Am I wrong in seeing that as a possibility with this new investment? It seems like from the first dollar, there has been a "spend what we have now" mentality, and hope for the rest of the money later.

by mtp on Apr 21, 2010 4:52 pm • linkreport

mtp: As David pointed out above, and I should have thought of myself, there is a line under construction East of the River right now. Go down to Firth Sterling Road in Anacostia and see the money being spent in lower-income communities yourself. The presentation last night showed that money is being spent right now on the environmental study for the connection of the line from Anacostia over the new 11th Street bridge being built to Capitol Hill as well.

I'm sorry, but any claim that money isn't being spent on both sides of the river on this project today are simply false.

by IMGoph on Apr 21, 2010 5:06 pm • linkreport

tom veil: later this year, DDOT will begin the Environmental Assessment for the segment that'll connect H Street at Union Station westward to K Street. Presumably that study will include the engineering report you wish for.

JJ: I was under the impression that the $63 million includes money to get the 3 more cars needed to run the H Street line.

by Froggie on Apr 21, 2010 5:59 pm • linkreport

Reading between the lines, DDOT's goal here is to establish an operating streetcar line FAST and (relatively) CHEAPLY. I think that's probably a political calculation, with the idea that once it is running -- hopefully without major problems -- then the rest of the community will fall in line with chants of "me too!"

I'm mostly concerned about two ways that DDOT seems to be short-cutting things:

The first involves this amazing "deus ex machina" solution of boring through the H Street "Hopscotch" Bridge. At first blush it's a brilliant discovery that will cut costs, limit construction disruptions, and hide ugly operations structures from public view. However, the current plan -- probably because it is being done on the cheap -- creates serious bottlenecks for future expansion and provides a less than ideal setting for the key Union Station terminus of the line. There's a reduction to single track and one-car platform, and the maintenance yard (covered by the viaduct west of 1st) will impede further expansion of the line to downtown. I think the awkward pedestrian connections to the small platform -- including lack of apparent access to North Capitol Street -- will make users feel like the streetcar hub is playing "hide-and-seek." I was also disappointed that DDOT doesn't seem to be interested in an at-grade stop at 2nd Street, right outside the front doors of the huge Station Place office complex. And where's the connection for the forthcoming behemoth of Burnham Place? My hope would be that, because this will be a design-build contract, the eventual contractor will come up with improvements as they go along. Otherwise, we'll be revisiting all these issues if and when the H Street line goes city-wide.

Secondly, as one member of the audience suggested, the rush to build may leave us saddled with some rather unattractive streetscape features -- from sore-thumb power substations to those overwhelming concrete streetcar stops we can already see on Benning Road. This design concern seems totally lost amidst all the hot air regarding overhead wires. We're taking those brutalist constructs DOWN in places like the Starburst intersection, only to build them up again along the streetcar line?

Most of us truly want this investment to impress the whole city by significantly contributing to a pleasant work/play/live environment on H Street. Some care needs to be taken, however, about issues like those highlighted above, even if it means initial operations are pushed back by a few months. Having DDOT seek more input shouldn't prolong the agony of H Street businesses, because more carefully considering streetscape design and future expansion behind Union Station will not extend the major *on-street* construction that is currently causing so much pain.

by John Mitchell on Apr 21, 2010 6:12 pm • linkreport

@kate, This is the grant Kubly was talking about for researching new power systems for streetcars:

I thought such a system already existed? Are you telling me it's 'experimental'? I.e., never been proven? ... hmmm, now I'm getting confused, I thought the problem with Bombardier's wireless system was ... well that it was 'experimental' 'i.e., never been proven'.

Please tell me what's going on here?

by Lance on Apr 21, 2010 9:47 pm • linkreport

There seem to be 8 questions that need to be answered:
1 Is the single track stop a 'bottleneck' if the line is extended? The X2 bus service is 9 to 10 buses per hour during the am peak. This translates to every 6 minutes. The cars will hold 168 people (crush capacity) against the buses crush capacity of perhaps 80. So even if patronage doubles, a 6 minute service interval should suffice. Stopping time when the stop is on a through line should be no more than 30 s. Answer - No Problem!
2 Would cars go over the bridge when it becomes a through route? It is undesirable to route the cars over the bridge, it loses the connectivity with the Metro station, and would require a new stop on-road in the middle of the bridge. Answer: Probably not.
3 What about pedestrian access to 2nd St? H St was wide - unless the portion outside the tunnel walls shown in the photos has been filled in, there will be a clear space available for pedestrians behind the existing tunnel wall (might have to shift some piping, or the like). Answer - Should be easy.
4 What about pedestrian access to North Capitol Street. Answer - Easy, walk down the ramp shown at the west end of the platform, walk a few yards south to G Place, then west on G Place to N Capitol Street.
5 What about a stop at 2nd Street? Answer - see above - as the stop is east of 1st Street, the distance to 2nd St is less than one block, provided the footpath behind the existing wall is opened up.
6 What about a passage for bicyclists? Answer - see 3 above. If the passage can be opened up for pedestrians, it should be usable for cyclists. Else they go over the bridge as now.
7 Will there be traffic priority for streetcars? Answer - there should be. A detector placed on the overhead wire about 200 yards before the signalled intersection should give sufficient time for the signal timing to adjust so that either a 'red' is shut off early on the cross street, or the 'green' on H Street is extended, to ensure that the streetcar can cross on a 'green' to enter the far side stop. Using traffic light priority like this ensures that not only traffic on H St does not suffer, but traffic on cross streets can get a slightly extended 'green' to make up for lost time. And with a 6 minute interval service, the probability of streetcars arriving one after the other is low - in such a case the second one would be delayed if the signal had already turned 'red'.
8 Can there be a satisfactory method of powering streetcars through the 'No Wires' Zone? Answer - probably. Hybrid systems require batteries (heavy) or super-capacitors (possibly heavy, probably expensive, still in the development) stage or diesel engines (heavy, noisy, polluting) on board to provide power. In ground systems are basically proprietary or in development (APS or Siemens) or conduit. Old style conduit was very expensive, labour intensive, and could be troublesome - especially in snow/ice conditions. Modern conduit should be much cheaper (shallow as opposed to deep), no additional labour (plough connected from driver's seat) but possibly still problematic in snow/ice). Even London style conduit would be better than Washington style - it solved the change pit labour problem. There are two other alternatives - use small diesel locos to tow the streetcars across the 'No Wire' zone (not one I particularly fancy, but a stop gap if no one can find a better solution) or permit lightweight overhead.
Dudley Horscroft

by Dudley Horscroft on Apr 22, 2010 5:12 am • linkreport

@Dudley, Thorough analysis. What's your background that you have the answers?

by Lance on Apr 22, 2010 9:30 am • linkreport

I like the plans to go underneath the Ivy City Yard. Will the portals in the bridge result in a landscaped median in the two center lanes on the top? Along with new development on either side of the bridge, this could put life into H Street west of 3rd and across North Capitol.

by Matthias on Apr 22, 2010 12:50 pm • linkreport

Matthias: I would wager against a grassy median on the bridge, since they would still used the center turn lane to get into the Union Station parking garage. In addition, there could be the need for left turns for eastbound traffic into whatever the new Burnham Place construction over the rail yards entails in the future.

Isn't this a little too far south to be called the Ivy City Yard though? I don't know the definition of the extent of the yard, but I always thought that was just the area east of the 9th Street bridge over New York Avenue and south of the BET building.

by IMGoph on Apr 22, 2010 12:54 pm • linkreport

I find it hard to believe that it would be that hard to stop the streetcars so that the doors open between the pillars in the H St underpass so that dual tracks could exist there for future continuations of this line.

by NikolasM on Apr 22, 2010 1:19 pm • linkreport

@Dudley Thanks for your response, which covered some of my concerns. I'm not saying that any of them were show-stoppers, but I hope there's a process where feedback like this makes it into the final design. While DDOT doesn't seem to have identified a formal intake for comments, the Trinidad presentation and subsequent discussions on blogs etc. certainly have produced a lot of good ideas.

Also, I'm still wondering how we could give the Union Station platform better connections to the trains (as opposed to just WMATA) and to Burnham Place.

by John Mitchell on Apr 22, 2010 1:44 pm • linkreport

This is good but the line should actually start at North Capitol & H Street (very busy stop) since it will be going most of the X2 route or at-least punch out that part of the bridge so that people wont have to walk all the way around to reach the streetcar.

When is the construction supposed to start for Benning Road east of the river and exactly where could it turn around at Benning Road station there is not really any room unless they plan on shrinking the area around Benning Road Station to accommodate the streetcar.

by kk on Apr 22, 2010 9:32 pm • linkreport

@kk, Modern streetcars are '2-headed'/bi-directional and don't need to turnaround.

by Lance on Apr 22, 2010 10:58 pm • linkreport

@ Lance

Sorry I meant switch tracks

by kk on Apr 22, 2010 11:24 pm • linkreport

@kk At Benning the streetcars will probably do the same thing they are going to do at Oklahoma or Union in phase 1: the tracks will merge and there will be a stopping pad and/or platform. The driver then gets out, walks to the other end, and begins driving back the other way.

by John Mitchell on Apr 23, 2010 9:47 am • linkreport

@Nicholas M:

I find it hard to believe that it would be that hard to stop the streetcars so that the doors open between the pillars in the H St underpass so that dual tracks could exist there for future continuations of this line.

I think there are a couple of problems - to meet the ADA requirements, the gap between the pillars has to be a certain width. That might be a problem. The other thing is to make sure all of the streetcar doors line up with those gaps. Getting one door to line up shouldn't be an issue, but getting both of the main doors to line up could be. I'm guessing that's the crux of the issue, hence making that work with two side platforms and doubletrack would involve removing some pillars.

by Alex B. on Apr 23, 2010 10:31 am • linkreport

@ John Mitchell

I understand that but there is no room infront of the station.

That is the spot where Benning Road is its narrowest; if you put streetcar tracks and a platform there you will end up with one lane on each side.

Considering that Benning Road is the one main road in that direction, the other being East Capitol going west/east you will create a huge ass traffic jam.

You can not have the streetcar platform on

Benning Road because there is no room

Central Ave damn sure isnt enough room unless they plan on doing major reconstruction at Central Ave & Benning Road and I doubt the Shrimp Boat would agree to it. Unless there planning to block off central Ave and then create two lanes for the streetcar where the sidewalk is currently and then move the sidewalk closer to the station it will not work.

The only real option is placing the platform in the 40 foot wide median of East Captiol Street at the Benning Road intersection.

A better option is to bring the streetcars up Benning Road to the DC line at Southern Ave where Benning Road is wide again.

by kk on Apr 23, 2010 10:37 am • linkreport

@kk ... Below is the planning which the Committee of 100 has suggested to DDOT that would/should be necessary before we start building a streetcar system. #1 gets to the point of what you are saying.

1. A Detailed Streetcar Route Plan - site specific information: the layout of tracks, pedestrian access, turnarounds on each segment; and the adequacy of the streets to support vehicular traffic as well as bicycles.
2. A Streetcar Business Plan - expected ridership; capital and operating costs over the life cycle of the equipment; acquisition of land and facilities for maintenance, storage, etc.
3. An Operations and Maintenance Plan - including interface with Metro buses and Metro rail personnel and training.
4. A Land Use Plan along the streetcar corridors that respects neighborhood aspirations articulated in the Comprehensive Plan (as opposed to being driven primarily by achieving greater density).
5. A Streetcar Technology Assessment Study on each type of streetcar technology, conducted by an objective engineering firm, to determine the pros and cons of all propulsion systems BEFORE DC commits to any one system.
6. A Public Streetcar Technology Showcase to engage the public in understanding new technologies, system interfaces, “open system architecture”, etc.

by Lance on Apr 23, 2010 12:07 pm • linkreport

Am I missing something here?

As I recall the "Hopscotch Bridge" was built because the B Route Red line easement pass through the top third of H street underpass as it descends in the Union Station metrorail station.

The only way to use the exiting underpass is lower the floor so there is enough clearance to get under the metrorail easement.

by Sand Box John on Apr 24, 2010 3:01 pm • linkreport

Sand Box John: That's a good question, but not something that was addressed at this meeting. I'm assuming that there's a solution for that, or this would be a silly idea to bring forth in public.

by IMGoph on Apr 24, 2010 6:34 pm • linkreport

Well, I can't say for certain, but from eyeballing the Metro tracks against the height of the wall, I could see how the Metro easement would make it hard to keep 4 traffic lanes open with enough height clearance, etc - but two streetcar tracks would still be possible.

by Alex B. on Apr 24, 2010 6:35 pm • linkreport

Alex B:
I don't think so. Have a look at this Microsoft Bing Bird's Eye View of H Street looking east at 1st Street. The metrorail track are at least 8' lower north of H Street then the track in Union station. The clearance through the H Street underpass was and is similar to the clearance through the other under passes north of H Street.

by Sand Box John on Apr 25, 2010 12:17 am • linkreport

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