WASHINGTON -- A critical link for the District of Columbia's future streetcar network will be built without rails necessary to run trolley vehicles. According to the transportation and planning blog Greater Greater Washington, the District Department of Transportation will not install streetcar tracks on the local span of the new 11th Street bridge complex, which will link local streets on Capitol Hill and in Anacostia in addition to two freeways that currently lack full connections.
The D.C. government, which is currently building a streetcar line on the H Street NE corridor, has been planning for a line east of Anacostia River for years. The 11th Street Bridge link would connect the future line east of the Anacostia River to future lines planned for Capitol Hill and elsewhere.
Greater Greater Washington reports that while the new local span will not have streetcar tracks when it opens, it is being built with the provision to add them in the future. The blog notes that while DDOT originally planned for streetcar track construction on the bridge, complications with federal authorities led to the decision to scuttle the rail construction:
People familiar with the conversations between DDOT and federal officials, speaking only on condition of anonymity, say that [the Federal Highway Administration] had signed off on contracts that included mention of the rails, but in early summer, DDOT tried to change the type of rails in order to comply with Buy America requirements that mandate more expensive, domestic rails. FHWA then brought in FTA, which objected to the project not having gone through even more environmental review.
D.C. Councilmember Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6), a champion of public transit development in the nation's capital, decried the news on Twitter: "This is ridiculous," he wrote.
This week, DDOT launched its new D.C. Circulator bus service linking Capitol Hill with areas east of the Anacostia River using the current 11th Street bridges.
Flickr photo by Mr. T in D.C.