Streetcar passes markup, but under consideration for cuts
A DC Council committee unanimously approved the streetcar approval resolution at a markup session this morning, but sources say Gray's budget staff and transition team are considering the program for cuts.
Nothing has been decided, but the Gray's Council budget office believes that they still need to make additional capital cuts for FY11 beyond those proposed in Mayor Fenty's budget, and the streetcar is one program being considered.
Earlier this year, the Council approved the streetcar program, but required DDOT to conduct some more extensive planning to move forward. Passing the resolution marked up this morning, the Streetcar Project Comprehensive Plan Approval Resolution of 2010, will release the last $34.5 million to build the H Street-Benning Road line.
That might make an inviting target for cutters, but Gray's team is also concerned about the certain backlash from residents who have come to feel the DC government made a fairly firm commitment to build the line. H Street business owners, in particular, testified powerfully about the impact the streetscape construction has had on business (most of which was not related to the streetcar).
The current budget has also cut the streetscape survival fund meant to help business through these projects. At least they can look forward to the light at the end of the tunnel (not literally) from business growth the streetcar is very likely to bring.
Unfortunately, this budget process hasn't been any more transparent than the last one. Despite hours of hearings, these capital budget cuts are again happening behind closed doors and at the last minute. Sarah Campbell and the rest of the Council budget office have a list of cuts they are pondering; it would be really helpful to know what they are so residents can more meaningfully weigh in.
We can't tell what level of cuts is really necessary, or what else is on the table, and whether those other projects are more or less important to the District's growth.
One thing is for sure: Whatever decisions get made, it won't be a staff error as Gray alleged the May cuts were during the campaign. Gray has near complete power over the Council right now, as Chairman and Mayor-Elect, and almost everyone from the executive and legislative branches is giving him wide discretion right now. It really is up to him.
You can always weigh in by calling Gray's office at (202) 724-8032.
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