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Mayor shows off D.C.'s new streetcar but can't say what project will cost

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Local,DC,Transportation,Eric P. Newcomer,Metro,Vincent Gray

Mayor Vincent Gray on Wednesday gave the public its first peek at the District's 157-passenger streetcar, scheduled to be in service by the end of the year, but said he doesn't know how much the 37-mile project will end up costing D.C. taxpayers.

"I don't think we can, with precision, say how much this will cost when we're finished," Gray said Wednesday morning.

In the mayor's budget proposal, the administration puts the total cost of a smaller 22-mile plan at $542 million -- $34.5 million of which has already been spent. This coming fiscal year, the mayor has asked for $63 million, funded by city bonds, for the streetcar project.

The proposal is part of the mayor's ambitious $1.38 billion in large projects for the coming fiscal year. It comes as the District's mayoral race begins to get under way -- a race Gray has not yet said he will enter.

Before climbing into the streetcar and positioning himself in the driver's seat Wednesday, Gray touted the benefits of the city's streetcar program.

The city is aiming big with the project, hoping one day to have the largest streetcar system in the nation. For now, the District is starting relatively small. The city hopes to have six streetcars running along the H Street corridor by the end of the year.

Officials will test the streetcars at Metro's Anacostia facility before putting them into action.

The District already owns three, $3.3 million streetcars, built in 2005 by Inekon Trams of the Czech Republic. The bright red and yellow cars weigh more than 33 tons each and can run at speeds up to 45 mph. The cars are 8 feet wide -- 6 inches thinner than the city's buses and 2 feet thinner than Metro's railcars.

enewcomer@washingtonexaminer.com

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