The District Department of Transportation is developing plans for a 37-mile streetcar system that may bring streetcars back to Georgetown for the first time in over 50 years, pending approval by neighborhood groups.

DDOT has already begun construction on a track along H Street and Benning Road, which it plans to open by next summer.

This 2.2-mile track, which includes a stop at Union Station, is a small fraction of the planned 37-mile streetcar system that will eventually link all eight wards of the District. DDOT plans to complete the construction in phases and has outlined a 22-mile priority track.

The 22-mile priority track includes a “One City Line” that will run from Union Station to an unspecified location in Georgetown. According to John Lisle, a DDOT spokesman, this could have many benefits for the area.

“It means more transit options for the residents of Georgetown, the students there, people who visit Georgetown, people who shop there, people who work there,” he said.

Lisle also cited the new system as a way to address the limited parking space in the neighborhood and surrounding area.

The system could have drawbacks, however. According to Bill Starrels, commissioner on Advisory Neighborhood Commission 2E, there is a possibility that neighborhood groups will not approve the new plan.

“A concern was the potential of an overhead wire, which would be a conflict for the historical nature [of the area], but overall we’d pretty much like to see streetcars as part of the transportation plan for Georgetown,” he said. “We’re a historic district and that would have to be approved … not just [by] the commission but also the Old Georgetown Board and Commission for Fine Arts.”

Overall, Starrels was supportive of the new transportation opportunities, and said that hopefully new technology would eliminate the need for aboveground wires.

“I think streetcars would be wonderful for Georgetown,” he said
While a timeline for the future tracks has not been set, DDOT issued a request for information on June 26 asking the private sector for feedback on the prospect of privatizing the streetcar system to accelerate the construction process. They have since received 20 responses to the request and plan to begin reviewing them over the next two months.

According to Lisle, responses came from around the world.

“We received 20 responses from some of the biggest names in the industry,” he said. “We have plans for the streetcar system, but we don’t have concrete plans for what this scenario or arrangement would look like if we did a public-private partnership with an outside firm or team of firms. … I would imagine that with 20 submissions there’s probably a wide variety of ideas put forward.”

As its next step, DDOT will begin reviewing information submitted by industry experts and considering the best options for the streetcar system.

“We would take that information and … put it out there for bid to say, ‘This is exactly what we’re looking for; who can provide it?’” Lisle said.

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