Breaking: Gray DOES NOT cut streetcars
DC Council Chairman and Mayor-elect Vincent Gray and his staff have released their proposal for the FY2011 budget gap, and are not reprising the adventure of May 26: the H Street-Benning Road and Anacostia streetcars are still in the capital budget.
This was the last financial hurdle to start the project, and the Council is expected to approve the streetcar plan as well today which passed its committee unanimously on Friday. The streetcar should open in 2012.
As with most transportation projects at this stage, small details still need to be worked out. DDOT has to come to a final agreement with Potomac Development and Amtrak about logistical issues in the H Street underpass, though DDOT officials say that they are making lots of progress.
DC also still needs to work out a sustainable "value capture" system to let the streetcar system directly benefit from the economic development that flows from its very existence. That should include mechanisms to alleviate displacement from higher property values.
The value capture will be necessary to help DC pay for the rest of the system given the expected hostile climate in Congress to transit funding at least for the next few years.
But we're getting a streetcar. And Gray kept his campaign promise to support the program. Now is the opportunity to move beyond the pro-streetcar camp fighting with the seemingly anti-streetcar camp and arguing about which camp Gray is in. Now, we're all in the "make the streetcar a success" camp. One streetcar project, one city.
This is good news, but the budget has plenty of bad news for a lot of people. That's why, as someone who would pay more taxes under Wells' plan, I nonetheless support his proposal for a tax increase to cover part, but far from all, of the budget shortfall and preserve some of the most critical social services.
Gray's proposal does make a few changes from the Fenty proposal, including a 4-day furlough for "nonessential" DC government personnel, and restores funding to the Healthy Schools Act, low-income energy assistance, and the Main Streets programs, including the funds to pick up trash in neighborhood commercial corridors.
A bit over 6 months ago, we shut down the phones in Gray's office to ask him to pull back the streetcar cuts. Let's thank him now. Contact Gray at firstname.lastname@example.org or 202-724-8032 to thank him. And while you're at it, suggest that the Council work out some kind of reasonable tax increase to make sure those of us who are more comfortable share in the responsibility of this budget.
Update 2: Clarified that the Anacostia line is also still in the budget.
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