It’s been a good six months since the District Department of Transportation became aware that it would need to figure out a temporary streetcar connection to Union Station while a permanent continuation through to downtown was thoroughly studied. A couple months after that point, DDOT came up with some ideas for how to do it. Just last week, they were still considering two alternatives: One to the top of the H Street Bridge, and another that would make a loop around the block enclosed by G, F, 2nd, and 3rd Streets NE.
Only tonight, however, did Mayor Vince Gray see fit to give the department clear direction, stating in no uncertain terms that the H Street Bridge option would prevail. “It’s nice that they’re looking at options, but let me be clear, we are not running any streetcar down 3rd Street and down 2nd Street,” he said. “Just so you know, I know these streets like the back of my hand…You will not be going through somebody’s neighborhood to get to Union Station.”
News of the proposed loop did not go over well with the folks on the block to be encircled. Earlier today, I got an email from a distressed neighbor raising the alarm about a “DDOT planning failure that may lead to neighborhood devastation.” At tonight’s update meeting at the Atlas Theater, someone handed out flyers warning against damage to homes and noise pollution, security concerns for the federal government office buildings that the streetcar might pass by, and even lawsuits if the loop plan went forward.
On top of neighborhood backlash, business interests had been pressuring the city for as seamless a connection to Union Station as possible, which is probably the H Street option (though going to F Street wouldn’t have meant a much longer walk to the Metro entrance). The bridge itself, according to an engineering study, will apparently be able to sustain the weight of the streetcar without a complete reconstruction, so there’s no big impediment to building it (or at least none that I know about).
The announcement was met with a round of sustained applause from the standing room-only audience, and people started leaving after the presentation, with all the suspense having been put to rest.
But Gray could have really helped the neighborhood by making his preferences known before DDOT went through this whole song and dance.