D.C. to Open First Streetcar Line By 2013

In Washington, D.C., the future is about to look a lot like the past: Although it's been nearly 50 years since streetcars traversed the arteries of the nation's capital, they'll soon be crossing town again thanks to a new streetcar system, the first line of which is scheduled to open in southeast Washington, D.C., no later than mid-2013, the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) announced last month.

Streetcars previously operated in Washington, D.C., for nearly 100 years, from 1862 until 1962, when the streetcar system was dismantled. In 2010, however, DDOT presented its plan for an entirely new D.C. streetcar system. Unlike the Metrorail system, which is designed to connect D.C. to the surrounding region, the purpose of the "DC Streetcar" system is connecting D.C. neighborhoods to one another.

Initially, DC Streetcar will include two lines: one in Anacostia and one along H Street between Benning Road NE and Union Station. The first line to open will be the H Street/Benning Road Line. Track for that line already has been laid, but DDOT still must erect overhead power lines, complete a turnaround station for trolleys, and choose a private company to operate and maintain the system.

"We are excited to put in place the final pieces to complete the H Street/Benning Road Line," DDOT Director Terry Bellamy said last month. "Today we are identifying the way forward."

Eventually, DDOT envisions a network with 37 miles of streetcar tracks, beginning with the segments already under construction and expanding to reach neighborhoods across the city. There will be eight lines in all, built in three phases. For more information, visit www.dcstreetcar.com.