Martin Di Caro
For the first time since 1962 streetcars will carry passengers in the District of Columbia when the H Street/Benning road line opens as early as the end of next year. The District of Department of Transportation on Thursday briefed reporters on the progress of the streetcar corridor, two miles of trolley tracks with ten stops that will compose the first segment of a planned 22-mile system running east-west and north-south across the district. It will take five to eight years to complete.
The district will begin testing its streetcars next spring on a test track in Anacostia.
"From a safety standpoint, we have to start what we call burning in the cars, to get them used to the traffic systems," said DDOT chief engineer Nick Nicholson.
While the streetcars are being broken in and the construction of power lines and other infrastructure is completed, DDOT will undertake an education campaign to help H Street businesses prepare for the changes in traffic and deliveries.
"We think pedestrians will probably be real used to street car because they are used to buses. Our real concern is the automobile driver because he is used to having the road to himself. Those cars in the district that like to double car or just stop and wait, in a streetcar path they're going have to move on," Nicholson said.
The streetcars will be about 65 feet long and carry a maximum of about 150 passengers. Fares and operating hours have yet to be decided. DDOT says it is looking at ways to make fare payment as simple as possible with Metro SmarTrip cards or another technology so the trolleys don't slow down traffic.
The district is depending on the streetcars to spark economic growth in their corridors.
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