After being on hiatus since 1962, streetcars are set to return to Washington, DC by month’s end. The DC Streetcar project has had numerous fits and starts over the years. And, as compared to the streetcars of more than 50 years ago, the district’s transit officials have kept the public in the loop with a variety of modern communication tools.

  • DC Streetcar will begin service soon.
  • DC has not had streetcar service since 1962.
  • Final testing is currently underway.

After being on hiatus since 1962, streetcars are set to return to Washington, D.C. by month’s end.

The DC Streetcar project has had numerous fits and starts over the years. And, as compared to the streetcars of more than 50 years ago, the district’s transit officials have kept the public in the loop with a variety of modern communication tools.

From virtual public meetings to social media, those interested in the project have numerous ways to follow along. The streetcar project even has its own Twitter handle.

And all that work will pay off soon.

The District Department of Transportation has targeted the end of this month as the beginning date for welcoming passengers onto the H Street and Benning Road streetcar line. The long-delayed, 2.2-mile streetcar line will serve the commercial district. The tracks were laid six years ago.

According to The Washington Post, the cars may roll as soon as Feb. 26.

Although the extensive Metrorail subway system does a great job of connecting the District to the rest of the region, it was not designed to connect neighborhoods. The rebirth of streetcar service is designed to address that need.

Final touches to the DC Streetcar project

The Northeast D.C. rail line is close to completion. Regulatory approvals are on the way, and the last few steps to ensuring the safety of the project are being taken.

The Car Barn Training Center I (CBTC I), a temporary facility where the six transit cars are housed, is now located at the corner of 26th Street and Benning, adjacent to the campus of Spingarn High School.

Construction on the permanent Car Barn Training Center (CBTC II) began in spring 2015 and is expected to be commissioned in 2017. Construction on CBTC I, which comprises the yard and the temporary storage facility was completed in 2014.

Once it begins service, the streetcar will be free for riders. Five streetcars will be in service. They will operate at 15-minute intervals six days a week. There will be no service on Sundays.

A final testing period, which was overseen by officials working in cooperation with D.C. Fire & EMS, is underway. The testing started Dec. 16.

According to DC Streetcar, the Pre-Revenue Operations (PRO) testing prepares the system for safety certification to carry passengers. PRO simulates service along the corridor without passengers. It runs the length of the new streetcar route, along H Street NE and Benning Road.

All of the streetcars take a turn on the tracks, simulating normal service from early morning to late night. DDOT also increased the distribution of safety information to pedestrians, motorists, and businesses along H Street NE and Benning Road NE to ensure the public knew what was going on.

According to an email from DC Streetcar staff, “The DC Streetcar continues to operate its simulated service while the Safety Certification process continues. The system will begin revenue service when the safety certification process is complete.”

The history of the streetcar project is recounted on the DDOT website.

Email Kimberley Sirk.

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