March 08, 2012 - 9:25 am

T Street renovations reveal old streetcar tracks

Old streetcar rails being removed from the 600 block of T St NW

The Howard Theatre is set to open in April. While construction crews are finishing the theater’s historic restoration, the District government is renovating the entire street in front of the theater. The streetscape project involves replacing the sidewalks, curbs, road pavement, storm drains, and lamp posts on the 600 block of T Street NW and along the one-block Wiltberger Street NW, which abuts the Howard Theatre.

Construction work started at the beginning of February. We were able to get this photo of construction crews removing the old streetcar tracks that were paved over after the streetcar system ceased operation in 1962. In fact the old tracks still lie under many of Washington’s streets; paving them over was cheaper than tearing them up.

Though the streetcars ran along 7th Street/Georgia Avenue and along Florida Avenue, a 1958 streetcar map shows that a short connector linked both of these routes along the 600 block of T Street NW.

DDOT’s plans for the block are ornate and are designed to complement the restored arts venue. The street will feature decorative pavement for both the sidewalk and the roadway. We certainly hope the decorative pavement can withstand the stress of traffic once the street reopens.

Below is the plaza section where T Street intersects Florida Avenue in front of Zenebech.  Earlier today we noticed that the sculpture plinth is in place already. The deciduous tree will certainly be a welcome addition to what is now an uninterrupted expanse of concrete.

January 26, 2010 - 7:45 am

Rails in Benning Road

We’ve written before about DDOT’s plan to build a streetcar system throughout the District.  The city already owns three streetcars and is storing them temporarily in Greenbelt.

The city recently installed rails and mini-platforms (see below) along the western end of Benning Road in Northeast Washington.  Here are some photos we took this weekend of our shiny new infrastructure.

Future Streetcar Stop

Above: Median platform at 19th Street NE.

Below: The tracks are embedded in a linear concrete pad that runs along the inner lanes of Benning Road.

Benning Road Streetcar

The rails will continue along H Street NE toward Union Station.

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December 15, 2009 - 7:42 pm

The Streetcars Have Landed

We wrote earlier about the rebirth of DC’s streetcar system and even suggested our own alignment for a full-length Rhode Island Avenue line.

As we reported, the city’s three streetcars were collecting dust in the city of Plzeň in the Czech Republic, where they were manufactured.  Today they completed their transatlantic voyage and landed at the Port of Balitmore. DDOT recorded the event:

The streetcars will be transported to the Greenbelt Metro railyard, where WMATA staff will maintain them until the tracks are ready.

Speaking of tracks, DDOT has finished laying down the streetcar tracks along Benning Road in Northeast.

Benning Road

DDOT took this photo on Benning Road NE at 17th Street NE, just two blocks outside the L’Enfant Plan, where overhead catenery wires are prohibited by law— another issue DDOT will have to resolve.

DDOT is ambitiously moving ahead with the streetcar plan, but Councilmember Jim Graham (D – Ward 1) told us that though he may not see the streetcars in his lifetime, I’d see them in mine (you’re writer is 25).  Not fully reassuring, but better than nothing.

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November 01, 2009 - 6:15 pm

Rhode Island Bound

With some careful consideration of DDOT’s proposed streetcar system, we suggest one alteration regarding the Rhode Island Avenue route.  DDOT would prefer to run the purple route all the way down Rhode Island Avenue from P.G. County to Florida Avenue (at the edge of LeDroit Park), at which point it would follow Florida Avenue northwest to U Street, then down 14th Street to K Street.

We suggest that DDOT study placing the route entirely along Rhode Island Avenue all the way to downtown.  Rhode Island Avenue empties out onto M Street, which the route would follow onto New Hampshire Avenue and then to Washington Circle in Foggy Bottom, where it could turn back.

Our proposed route has several advantages:

  • It’s more intuitive. Rather than zig-zagging from Rhode Island Avenue to Florida Avenue to U Street then to 14th Street, then to K Street, the proposed route would simply follow Rhode Island Avenue all the way downtown.  In fact, the route would become synonymous with the avenue, which is well known in the city and P.G. County as one of the main arteries.  Riders familiar with the city but unfamiliar with the map will know exactly where the line goes.
  • It avoids congestion on Florida Avenue. The 400, 500, and 600 blocks of Florida Avenue NW, on the edge of LeDroit Park, are frequently congested even during non-rush hour periods.  Avoiding this section of road will reduce delays on the line.
  • It’s more direct. DDOT’s route would take inbound passengers southwest along Rhode Island Avenue, and then northwest at Florida Avenue.  Our alignment cuts the distance from LeDroit Park to Washington Circle by 29% (2.0 miles versus 2.8 miles).
  • It’s more central to Shaw. The proposed route passes closer to the center of the Shaw neighborhood and passes by the Metrorail station entrance at 7th Street and R Street on Rhode Island Avenue.  DDOT’s alignment passes on the edge of Shaw and two blocks from the Metrorail entrance.
  • It provides more redundancy downtown.  In the event of a closure of the K Street Transitway (for an accident, vehicle breakdown, street protest, etc.) anywhere from Washington Circle to 14th Street, the proposed route provides a parallel set of tracks just a few blocks away allowing a quick diversion around the trouble spot.

This proposal will not reduce coverage at all, since the route we suggest eliminating is already covered by at least one other proposed line.

The map below illustrates the difference.  Click the buttons to switch between the DDOT proposal and the DDOT proposal with our amendment.

DDOT Streetcar Routes Downtown

Download an image of our proposal.

October 23, 2009 - 5:50 am

K Street Transitway Video

To follow up on the previous post on reviving the city’s streetcar network, d. has produced a video simulation of what the K Street Transitway will look like.  Skip ahead to 5:07 to see the streetcar cameo.