DDOT Director Leaves Open Possibility of Killing H Street Streetcar Project

by Andrea Swalec March 6, 2015 at 3:40 pm 1,555 11 Comments

H Street streetcar(Updated at 4:05 p.m.) As empty streetcars glide back and forth on H Street, scrapping the entire project is not out of the question.

The head of the District Department of Transportation will abandon the H Street streetcar project if additional reviews reveal “fatal flaws,” he said at a D.C. Council hearing this afternoon.

“You need to have the facts on your side and make a business case for what you’re doing,” DDOT Acting Director Leif Dormsjo said. “I’m not going to ask for money from the citizens of this jurisdiction, nor from this council, for something I can’t manage. That is the threshold test that’s going on as we speak.”

Dormsjo said his preference is for the streetcar project to succeed.

“My bias is toward delivering transportation solutions and services that make this city a better place,” he said.

Ideally, Dormsjo would like the H Street/Benning Road tracks to be the “starter line” of an extended system, he said.

“It’s certainly not the optimal streetcar facility that you would want if you were going to open up a facility fro point A to point B,” he said. “It wouldn’t logically be the endgame.”

Additionally, he said the cause of a “flash fire” atop a streetcar on Feb. 21 is still under investigation.

The overall safety and success of the system is being evaluated now by the Federal Transit Administration, American Public Transportation Association and State Safety Oversight Office within the D.C. fire department.

Dormsjo told Council members he would have a better idea of next steps for the streetcar project before budget preparations next month.

The future of the streetcar must be determined by “the facts on the ground,” he said.

  • Sandra

    Why don’t they look into how amersterdam or others cities do it. Dc is reinventing the wheel here. It has been done before.j

  • OhWelll

    This is completely unacceptable and not a real option. Please tell me that this is a joke. Cities all over the country and the world have successfully operated streetcars. Is our local government still this inept?

    • G Clifford Prout

      Asked and answered.

    • Makesnosense

      I think some clarification may be in order. First off, there are not that many European cities that operate a streetcar. As for cities in the US that has them. That would only be San Francisco, Boston, Cleveland, Newark, Philly, New Orleans, and Pittsburgh. 7 cities does not equate to your statement of ‘all over the country.’

      • OhWelll

        You’re forgetting Portland and Kansas City just off the top of my head.

      • OhWelll

        And Cincinnati. …

      • OhWelll

        Actually, if you finished reading that paragraph of wikipedia, you would have also found Atlanta, Salt Lake City, Tuscon, and Seattle. As a point of clarification, we are at fourteen now.

      • OhWelll

        Tacoma and Houston, too. We are now at 16. How many do you need?

      • OhWelll

        As for Europe, Google Trams in Europe.

  • Jeff Davenport

    This sounds like concessions are being made to people who didn’t want the streetcar in the first place. The idea of abandoning a project that is this far into its life cycle is ridiculous.

  • bob

    about time to let people ride the thing and make up their own minds as to weather it is usefull etc. pulling the plug at this stage of the game is wastefull and political and has nothing to do with transportation.
    they are standard streetcars in service in many cities in this country and others. the streetcar line is operating and no one has been electricuted by stray power so that part is pretty obviously done correctly. what is the hold up. no one will reveal what these “safety issues” are nor why they have not been fixed by now….

    Cinncinatti built a subway that never had any trains run thru it, tunnels are still there, I thought maybe that was the dumbest move any city had ever made concerning transportation. but if DC pulls the plug they will have raised waste to a new level.

    I would imagine there are several other cities lined up to buy the streetcars real quick but that would leave the city with a multi million dollar transit system with no equipment…


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