D.C. streetcar plan faces new hurdle

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Photo - H Street NE (Examiner file photo)
H Street NE (Examiner file photo)
Local,DC,Transportation,Kytja Weir

The streetcar line along H Street faces yet another potential delay after D.C. Councilman Marion Barry, who once proposed the system, contested the $50 million contract to build it.

The Ward 8 councilman filed a resolution of disapproval against the Dean-Facchina LLC contract, announced last week, to design and build the streetcar line along H Street and Benning Road in Northeast D.C.

That effectively puts a 45-day hold on the contract, which could delay the line and add untold costs. Barry's resolution was first reported by the Washington Post.

"I'm not opposed to the H Street line if it can be shown there are cost benefits," Barry told The Washington Examiner.

While Barry said he supports subsidizing streetcars, he is concerned about how much each trip would be subsidized and whether the city should prioritize its money that way when it already subsidizes Metro and DC Circulator. "For $50 million, I could get at least three or four recreation centers built in Ward 8," he said.

The city's proposed streetcar network would cover 37 miles along eight lines. Tracks are already laid along H Street, and the city has some of the trolley cars waiting in storage after ordering them in 2005. But the system has been beset by delays. The H Street line is currently slated to start running in July 2013.

The original line proposed for Anacostia in Ward 8 remains in flux without a start date, though. Barry denied that his resolution was due to the H Street line leapfrogging ahead of the Anacostia one.

Ward 3 Councilwoman Mary Cheh, who leads the transportation committee, said she was skeptical of Barry's stated reasons and said Barry should have raised his concerns directly instead of pulling what she called "11th hour shenanigans."

Councilman Tommy Wells, whose Ward 6 includes the proposed H Street line, is now trying to bypass Barry's roadblock. He plans to file emergency legislation Wednesday to move forward with the contract.

Such legislation needs a supermajority, so Wells would need to line up support before next Tuesday's likely vote. Supermajorities normally require nine of 13 votes, but officials weren't sure Tuesday how many were needed since former Chairman Kwame Brown resigned. Wells did not know if he had enough votes but said his effort couldn't hurt.

kweir@washingtonexaminer.com

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Kytja Weir

Staff Writer - Transportation
The Washington Examiner