Mayor Muriel Bowser‘s District Department of Transportation blew by the Vince Gray-imposed deadline to launch the streetcar by Jan. 19, and they don’t plan to replace it with their own deadline anytime soon. At a D.C. Council hearing on the H Street-Benning Road NE streetcar today, new DDOT boss Leif Dormsjo stuck by his commitment not to offer new deadlines for when the 2.2-mile line will finally start running.
Asked by Ward 6 Councilmember Charles Allen when the streetcars would accept passengers, Dormsjo demurred from predicting when the $160 million system would start running. “I want to make sure that the system is, one, safe and, two, operationally ready for the passenger experience,” Dormsjo said.
Dormsjo said he’s improved DDOT’s relationship with the District’s safety oversight office, which he described as previously “acrimonious.” Last October, the safety office accused DDOT of “fabricating” a safety document. Despite saying that he wouldn’t be doing his job if he didn’t ask when the streetcar will start running in his ward, Allen warned Dormsjo about the dangers of setting deadlines and missing them.
“The moment you put a date out there and you don’t stick to it, your credibility is completely undermined,” Allen said.
Ward 3 Councilmember Mary Cheh had an even less optimistic take on questions about the future, both for the streetcar’s chances for opening—and for herself.
“I’ve been basically reduced to, ‘Do you think it will be running in my lifetime?'” Cheh said. “But then, of course, there’s the question of my own personal circumstances.”
Photo by Darrow Montgomery