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Push on for Wisconsin Ave. streetcars

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Local,Transportation,Kaitlin Schluter
Special to The Examiner

A group of D.C. residents along the Wisconsin Avenue corridor are clamoring to bring streetcars to their neighborhoods.

Project maps currently show a plan to build 37 miles of streetcar track in the D.C. area -- a hefty undertaking that began construction in Anacostia last year. On area maps, that proposed route is marked by dotted lines.

"We want more than a dotted arrow, we want some track on the ground," said Ben Thielen, head of the Wisconsin Avenue Streetcar Coalition and a Glover Park resident.

Thielen's group has asked the District Department of Transportation to study the feasibility of a route alignment along Wisconsin Avenue to provide places like Tenleytown more access. Thielen prefers an alignment where two lanes of streetcars would replace curbside parking. He says the change will relieve congestion in Georgetown as people will be more apt to ditch the car keys if another transit option is available.

According to DDOT spokesman John Lisle, the uncertain future of the line may be determined by community support.

"The dotted line represents the possibility of putting a line there if that's something the city and residents and businesses in Georgetown all agree is a good idea," Lisle said.

According to the DDOT's report in October 2005, the Friendship Heights to Georgetown corridor had received high ratings in terms of potential streetcar ridership, accessibility and minimal environment impact. However, the report states the area is "already highly developed and does not include any city economic development initiatives."

But support appears to be growing. The Coalition's Facebook page is up to 146 members, the D.C. chapter of the Sierra Club is endorsing streetcars along Wisconsin Avenue, and the organization is trying to line up backing from more commissioners with advisory neighborhood committees.

"If you look at the density and need for mass transit and connection [between neighborhoods] -- it's a no-brainer," said Brian Cohen, ANC commissioner for Glover Park and Cathedral Heights.

Not everyone wants streetcars in the neighborhoods. Glover Park resident Alan Carpien said they would add to congestion to the area, noting the streetcars were originally taken out of the area and should be kept that way.

"I can't think of anything that would ruin the neighborhood more than a streetcar line and, frankly, this is a bad idea," Carpien said.

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