In what he described as a “bittersweet” milestone for the city’s planned streetcar system, Mayor Vince Gray today announced the shortlist of three potential teams to oversee the network, which may not reach its initially intended scale after the D.C. Council cut its funding this spring.

Gray’s office calculates that the Council’s changes to the streetcar funding mechanism will result in $1.4 billion less in funds available for the streetcar than the mayor had requested. As a result, the parameters for the contract that will be awarded to one of the three finalists are significantly scaled back: Instead of a 22-mile priority streetcar network and an eventual 37-mile one, the city is now offering a contract for just two lines, totaling 8.2 miles.

Of the five teams that responded to the city’s request for qualifications by the March 31 deadline, the city has selected a short list of three finalists: DC Transit Partners (consisting of Clark Construction, Shirley Contracting Company, and Herzog Transit Services); Capital Transit Partners (Balfour Beatty, Rail Infrastructure Inc., FCC Construction, CPT Operators, CPT Construction, and Parsons Brinckerhoff); and Potomac Transit Partners (URS, M.C. Dean, Facchina, and RDMT). The city twice informed the initial respondents that it needed additional time to draw up a shortlist, due to the Council’s cuts, which came after councilmembers were concerned the city was committing too much money to the project.

After a year of review of the submissions and discussions with the short-listed teams, the city will issue a request for proposals to those teams in January 2016. Proposals will be due by May 2016, and the city hopes to select a winning team by December 2016. The city will pay each of the other two teams up to $1 million for the time they put into the proposals.

The contract for the so-called Integrated Premium Transit system was initially supposed to include not only the larger streetcar network, but also the Circulator bus network and local buses run currently run by the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority. The mayor’s office decided to remove the Metrobus component, and has also cut back the streetcar lines included in response to the Council’s changes. The Circulator remains part of the package.

Construction is already completed on the H Street line and a portion of the Anacostia line. The initial extensions of those lines will remain on schedule: The H Street line is set to run east of the Anacostia River by 2017, and the Anacostia line will extend into Historic Anacostia by 2019. The full westward extension of the H Street line, from Union Station to Georgetown via K Street NW, is now delayed from 2017 to 2019. Meanwhile, two segments have been dropped from the IPT contract altogether: the extension of the Anacostia line to the Southwest Waterfront and Buzzard Point, and the north-south line connecting Buzzard Point to Takoma.

“Unfortunately, this announcement is bitter sweet considering the steep funding cuts to the system made by the D.C. Council,” Gray says in a statement. “By cutting Streetcar funding by nearly 75 percent, the Council has prevented us from building out the full system over the next 10 years.”

“It’s not the project we had initially envisioned,” adds Matt Brown, director of the District Department of Transportation, “but I think it’s a significant amount of work and a first step to building the streetcar system.”

Officials in the mayor’s office have expressed concern that the city’s reduced commitment to the long-term streetcar plans following the Council’s cuts might scare off teams that might otherwise have been interested in the contract to design, build, operate, and maintain the streetcar. The five teams that responded to the city’s solicitation did so before the Council’s cuts, but Brown says the finalists have been apprised of the budget changes, and so far they haven’t pulled out of the process. Brown insists the remaining contract, for about $800 million, is still a significant and appealing one.

“I think there’s a significant amount of work to be done in the nation’s capital,” he says, “and I think it’s an attractive package that we’ve been able to put together.”

Photo via DDOT