Posts about Streetcars
DDOT's final alternatives analysis for a premium transit route from Union Station to Georgetown calls for a streetcar using a dedicated transitway along K Street.
Other alternatives that were analyzed and rejected would have followed I and M Streets, or used buses rather than streetcars.
The selected route begins on the Hopscotch Bridge as an extension of the H Street streetcar. From there it runs west along H Street, New Jersey Avenue, and K Street, until it reaches its end at Wisconsin Avenue under the Whitehurst Freeway in Georgetown.
From 10th Street to 21st Street NW the line runs as the K Street transitway, in dedicated lanes fully separated from cars by medians on most blocks. Although the transitway has been planned for years, DDOT did consider other options.
Since federal rules prohibit overhead wires in most of the L'Enfant City, DDOT's analysis included a report on wire-free propulsion. Wire free technology is improving, and seems possible for segments of up to 2.5 miles long.
Since the route from Union Station to Georgetown is a little over 3 miles long, rapid battery recharge stations may be necessary, unless the technology improves or overhead wires are allowed.
Cross-posted at BeyondDC.
Delays from the government shutdown mean that the H Street/Benning Road streetcar will open in early 2014 and not by the end of this year, DC Streetcar officials said at a community construction update yesterday. They also announced that DC will partner with a private company to build, but not finance future streetcar lines.
Thomas Perry, the streetcar program manager at the District Department of Transportation (DDOT), said that the agency currently plans to move the first streetcars to the 2.4-mile line, coinciding with the delivery of the first US-built United Streetcar vehicle. DDOT will start testing the line in December, and open it early next year, when the next two streetcars will arrive.
DDOT has long held out hope that the streetcar line would open before the end of the year. But many believed that the date would slip into 2014 as construction proceeded slower than initially outlined.
Catenary progress and pedestrian improvements
By the end of the month, all of the catenary poles on the corridor will be in place, said Ron Garraffa, a senior construction manager at streetcar program manager HDR. Stringing of the catenary wire will begin in early November and take place overnight from 7pm to 7am. He characterized the installation as "quiet" work, but noted that the contractor understands that no construction work is completely quiet and said that they are working to minimize any disruptions at the update.
The recent federal government shutdown delayed the wires. The imported catenary wire was stuck in US customs while non-essential US government employees were furloughed for 16 days earlier in October, said Garraffa. This delay pushed wire-stringing back to November from this month, as it was previously scheduled under DDOT's construction timeline.
Residents on the western end of H St NE were happy to hear that the crossing at 3rd St NE could reopen as early as mid-November. The crossing has been closed for those walking north or south on 3rd due to the streetcar construction near its western terminus on the Hopscotch Bridge.
With the reopening of 3rd St and the impending arrival of a streetcar vehicle in December, Steve Carroll, head of the HDR team, said that safety education will begin shortly. This includes flagging parked cars and delivery vans that block the tracks from November as well as reaching out to residents to be aware of the trains when they are walking and cycling.
Private partner will build and operate, but not finance streetcar
DDOT will procure the initial 22-mile streetcar system as a design-build-operate-maintain (DBOM) deal with a private sector partner, Perry said at the meeting. The agency will release a request for qualifications (RFQ) for interested firms before the end of the year, he added.
This is a change from the request for information (RFI) that the agency released for a possible design-build-finance-operate-maintain (DBFOM) concession in June 2012. The private partner will still build, operate and maintain the streetcar system, but will not finance the construction.
"We would be essentially paying a premium for what the District could do itself," said Perry, on why the agency selected this project model. He added that a DBOM is a "better value" for the District.
The Hudson-Bergen Light Rail in New Jersey, which opened between 2000 and 2011, was built and continues to be operated under a DBOM deal. Meanwhile, Maryland is pursuing a DBFOM concession for the Purple Line in Montgomery and Prince George's counties.
The 22-mile system includes a proposed extension of the H Street/Benning Road line, which will run between Union Station and Oklahoma Avenue, west to Georgetown and east to the Benning Road Metro station. There would also be a north-south line, currently under study, from Buzzard Point to either Takoma or Silver Spring. Eventually, DC plans to build out a 37-mile, 8-line system.
When the new Rosslyn Metro entrance opened earlier this week, it became the first in what will be an exciting string of big transit projects opening in the DC region. Still to come: Metro, MARC, streetcars, and BRT.
From left to right: Alexandria's BRT, MARC, Silver Line, DC streetcar.
BRT and Metro photos from Alexandria and Fairfax County.
MARC and streetcar photos from BeyondDC.
The next big event will be on December 7, when MARC trains begin running on weekends between DC and Baltimore. MARC's transition from a commuter railroad to a more general-purpose transit system will open up Baltimore and other parts of Maryland like never before.
After that come streetcars. Sometime in late December, or possibly January, DDOT expects to start running streetcars along H Street. Then in February, the Silver Line will open, and begin carrying passengers to Tysons Corner and Wiehle Avenue.
Finally, sometime in the spring of 2014 Alexandria will open its Route 1 transitway, marking the beginning of the first bona fide bus rapid transit line in the region. All together, it's the most exciting time for transit openings in the DC area since the early 1980s, when Metrorail was opening new segments every few months.
Cross-posted at BeyondDC.
In response to yesterday's story that DDOT may be able to build its 22-mile streetcar network in 5 years, spokesperson Dara Ward clarifies that timeline is only for construction, not planning.
"Given the steps still needed before construction will start, we are 2 to 3 years out before shovels hit the ground," says Ward. "Realistically, we're looking at 2020-2021 for the 22-mile system to be built out."
Such a rapid timeline is only possible because DDOT is looking to sign a private sector partner for the entire 22-mile system. Under that scenario, DDOT would pay a private company to take on responsibility to complete and run the system.
DDOT began exploring the possibility of a private partnership in 2012, and hopes to issue a Request For Proposals (RFP) sometime in 2014. Once a contractor is signed, they will proceed with detailed engineering, and then construction.
Without a private partner, Ward says it would take DDOT 17-20 years to complete the same work.
Cross-posted at BeyondDC.
DDOT thinks they may be able to build a 22-mile streetcar system in just 5 years. Is that really possible?
Although DC has planned a 37-mile streetcar network, planners are currently focusing strongly on the first 22 miles. The H Street line is under construction and in the home stretch, while planning has started for the crosstown line and the north-south line.
Project spokesman Dara Ward says DDOT hopes to build the 22-mile system in 5 years. That's optimistic, but possible.
Streetcars are relatively easy to build. Actual construction can take anywhere from a few months to a couple of years, depending on the specifics. Planning and engineering take a couple of years as well. But if funding is ready, there's no controversy, and everything moves along on schedule, 5 years is about how long it should take.
If that seems impossible based on how long it's taken H Street, remember that H Street is atypical. DDOT installed streetcar tracks there in 2009, years before the planning was really done, because they were rebuilding the street anyway and didn't want to go to the expense of tearing it up twice.
So really H Street planning and construction came in two separate phases. Each phase took a couple of years. If it had all been done at once, it wouldn't have started until more recently, and likely could have been done within about 5 years.
It does often take longer. But usually the big holdups are politics or funding. Those issues can tie any project up for decades. And the first line is always the hardest.
But after discussing streetcars for years, DC seems to have the money and politics pretty well worked out. If they stay the course and focus strongly on moving forward, 5 years is doable.
Difficult and optimistic, yes. But not a complete fantasy.
Update: DDOT spokesperson Dara Ward clarifies that the 5 year estimate is for construction only, and doesn't begin until planning is complete. - 10.1.2013Cross-posted at BeyondDC.
Tom at Ghosts of DC posted an 1892 map of the L'Enfant City. Union Station did not yet exist, and instead, railroads from the south carried trains right to a terminal where the National Gallery is today. Streetcars plied most major thoroughfares.
Ed Summers pointed out on Twitter how the paths on the Mall are much windier and loopier than the straight, formal paths today. The same is true of Dupont Circle and Iowa Circle (now Logan Circle, but at the time, Logan Circle was the name for what's now Sheridan Circle), and other parks.
Many DC parks changed from a more natural, Victorian-era layout to a more formal one around the time of the 1902 McMillan Plan, which also created the Federal Triangle, the Lincoln and Jefferson Memorial sites, and other elements that shape the monumental core today.
Maybe the 20th century patterns are better, or maybe not. But it does further make a mockery of the National Park Service's claims that parks forever must match the layouts they had around, say, 1929. Our parks have changed and should continue to change to accommodate the recreational and relaxational needs of residents and visitors.
What else do you notice on the map?
It's going to be the summer of streetcar in DC, with increasingly rapid progress visible on H Street and at the vehicle testing site in Anacostia.
At last week's streetcar community fair, DDOT representatives presented the timeline for vehicle testing, gave line-by-line construction and planning status updates, and showed images of streetcar station signs, power substations, the car barn, and more. The fair was one of the largest releases of new information in the program's history.
Vehicle testing timeline
Workers at the streetcar testing and commissioning site on South Capitol Street have already started testing the mechanics and electronics of the 3 Czech-built streetcars currently in DC. They'll begin dynamic testing around July 15, meaning that's when streetcars will actually begin to move along track.
Around August 1, the 3 streetcars will be turned over to DDOT's operations and maintenance team for a month of crew training, before they're moved to H Street for on-site testing
around August 30 this autumn.
The first of the 3 new US-built United Streetcar vehicles is expected to arrive and begin testing in September.
Line by line updates on the 22-mile system
DC's streetcar plans call for 37 miles of lines, but so far DDOT is only working on the first 22 miles.
Work is progressing in 3 phases. Each line goes through alternatives planning, followed by environmental analysis, and then finally construction.
Right now, two segments are under construction, two are in the environmental stage, and 4 are in alternatives planning.
The H Street and Anacostia initial segment are under construction now, with H Street slated to open this year.
Planners expect environmental analysis to be finished this summer for the northern extension of the Anacostia line into central Anacostia, and for the eastern extension of the H Street line across the Anacostia River to Benning Metro.
Alternatives planning is complete for the M Street SE/SW line, and will soon be complete for the Union Station to Georgetown line. The north/south line will begin analysis this summer, with the Bolling Air Force Base extension of the Anacostia line following after that.
The car barn
Streetcars will be stored and maintained over the long term in the car barn in front of Spingarn High School. The car barn design is still advancing through the Historic Preservation Review Board approval process, but is now making progress and is no longer facing delays.
Construction will begin this month on the tracks and non-building infrastructure at the car barn site, in anticipation of hosting streetcars later this year. The building itself should begin construction this fall, and open in summer 2014. DDOT can operate the streetcars with the tracks but not the building for a few months, so as long as the tracks at the car barn site are finished on time, the fact that the building will still be under construction this winter should not cause any delay.
There will be 3 traction power substations along the H Street line, necessary to keep the streetcar's overhead wires alive with electricity. The substations will be located at 2nd Street NE, 12th Street NE, and 25th Street NE.
Approval was granted for the 12th Street substation in May, and construction is now imminent.
Keep up to date
It's going to be a busy and exciting summer for streetcars in DC. To keep up with the latest, visit DCstreetcar.com.
Correction: The 3 streetcars currently being tested at the commissioning site will be moved to H Street sometime this autumn, not at the end of August as originally reported.
Cross-posted at BeyondDC.
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