DDOT creates 10 Anacostia streetcar alignment options, but many residents still skeptical
DDOT presented ten alternative alignments for a streetcar through Anacostia at a community meeting on Saturday. Residents are still skeptical about DDOT's plan to build a streetcar there and many fear that it will displace the majority black community.
DDOT is seeking greater community input as part of an Environmental Assessment process, and because many Anacostia residents feel they have been left out of many previous development efforts.
Besides an alternative matching previous plans to run the streetcar on Martin Luther King, Jr. Avenue (Anacostia's main street) in both directions, there are also alternatives to run the streetcar on MLK in one direction and in the other direction either east or west of MLK. Other alternatives bypass MLK entirely, using a route along the railroad tracks or in Poplar Point for one or both directions.
DDOT has enumerated the advantages and disadvantages, along with the costs and specific challenges for each, in this table.
Running streetcar tracks along MLK Avenue can bring much needed economic activity to the main commercial corridor in Anacostia. However, MLK Avenue is narrow and some residents worry that adding streetcar tracks could create additional traffic congestion.
A number of businesses along MLK lack rear access, and residents have concerns that the streetcar will impede both commercial deliveries and customer parking. Eric Fidler discussed these and related issues in a previous post about DDOT's first public meeting on the project in January.
Running the streetcar east of MLK Avenue through residential neighborhoods along 13th or 14th Street could bring new development there, but those streets are similarly narrow. Jay Lee, chairman of ANC 8D, said Ward 8 has the highest number of children in the city, and argued that running the streetcar down residential streets could be dangerous during both construction and operation.
On the west side of MLK Avenue, the streetcar could use the existing CSX right-of-way and bring new development to Poplar Point. Many residents supported this route because it would keep the streetcar off of MLK and would reduce the footprint of the streetcar tracks.
While some residents support the project under certain alignments, others oppose the project entirely. In addition to traffic and parking concerns, there was a palpable sense at the meeting that the streetcar is an unnecessary expense and will only benefit new residents.
Those skeptics include Councilmember Marion Barry, who announced that he doesn't want the streetcar extended into the neighborhood from its starter segment to Barry Farm and South Capitol Street.
Some residents articulated fears that the streetcar will bring wealthier, white residents to Anacostia, ultimately displacing folks currently living in the community. Others believe the streetcar will only serve riders from other parts of the District or commuters from Maryland. They have doubts that the streetcar will provide any new value to the existing community.
Since the streetcar won't yet connect to H Street-Benning Road and even the larger system will be confined to DC, it's unlikely that many commuters from Prince George's County would incorporate the streetcar into their daily travels.
However, future extensions of the streetcar will serve the 14,000 new jobs expected to come from the new Homeland Security headquarters just to the south, ultimately connecting them with local businesses. Also, bringing more people to Anacostia could result in more local investment and a higher quality of life in Ward 8.
It was beneficial that residents were able to see many potential routes at Saturday's meeting, but DDOT still has a big task ahead if it wants to convince residents of the potential benefits of the streetcar, including increased mobility and attracting economic development.
Many of those opposed feel the streetcar will come regardless of their opposition and they cannot envision future development in places like Poplar Point. Education and public trust are critical to the success of the project.
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