The Washington, D.C. Department of Transportation abandoned plans to extend a streetcar line into Georgetown on Jan. 14, marking the end to a yearslong push for the project’s completion.
DC Streetcar, a free light rail line that runs along city streets, began operating in 2017, running along H and Benning Streets in Northeast D.C. An expansion into Georgetown would have run for 3 miles along K Street NW, according to the DC Streetcar website. After conducting an internal assessment, the DDOT decided against seeking federal funding for the project, citing greater funding priorities and operational challenges, according to a Jan. 14 DDOT review sent to the Committee on Transportation and the Environment.
In place of the extended streetcar line, the DDOT will establish a 1.3-mile K Street Transitway which will span from 12th to 21st Streets NW. The transitway will feature dedicated bike and bus lanes, as well as improved pedestrian amenities, according to the DDOT website.
The transitway will broaden transportation options within the Union Station-Georgetown Corridor with minimal disruption to residents, according to Janice Ferebee, who serves on Advisory Neighborhood Commission 2F, which represents Logan Circle and parts of Shaw.
“I did not feel streetcars were a good idea because of disruption and length of time the construction would cause,” Ferebee wrote in an email to the Hoya. “I don’t believe it’s worth the upheaval of the roads and the communities. I do, however, believe in improving transport from Union Station to Georgetown, and the planned enhancement of bus routes (transitway) is a viable alternative.”
The transitway will serve D.C. residents better than extended streetcar lines, which would be costly and would require allocating land for railcar storage and maintenance facilities, according to DDOT director Jeff Marootian.
“We’re pursuing the K Street Transitway because it’s expected to deliver a maximum impact in a quicker and more cost-effective way,” Marootian said to the Washington Post. “A streetcar project we know takes significantly longer and has several complexities, such as the need for another storage and maintenance facility.”
The DDOT is still planning to extend the streetcar line east over the Anacostia River along Benning Road NE to the Benning Road Metro station, a project that is projected to cost $241 million, according to WTOP.
The now-scrapped plan to extend the streetcar line to Georgetown was part of the city’s multi-year effort to provide faster and more reliable east-west transit. When DC Streetcar was implemented in 2017, residents praised the faster and more affordable means of transportation.
However, opponents of the streetcar line pointed out the high cost of the project. The city spent over $200 million on constructing the first 2-mile stretch of the streetcar line, according to The Washington Post.
As of Nov. 30, 2019, the DDOT had allotted $101,595 for the construction of the Union Station-Georgetown streetcar line, according to the DDOT review. That funding can now be used to support the transitway project, according to WTOP.
If completed, the transitway project will serve as a suitable alternative to an extended streetcar line, according to Christopher Mathews, board member of the Citizens Association of Georgetown, a civic organization composed of Georgetown residents.
“The city’s decision to cut streetcar to Georgetown is unfortunate, as it diminishes the potential value of the existing streetcar route. But more important, from CAG’s perspective, is that if indeed the city won’t move forward with the Georgetown leg of the streetcar that it nonetheless move forward with the K Street Transitway,” Matthews wrote in an email to the Hoya. “This ambitious project will improve cross-town bus service by the creation of high-quality, bus-only lanes. This will ultimately benefit residents, workers and visitors of Georgetown.”