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Sierra Club testifies in support of DDot’s streetcar plan

Saturday, November 27th, 2010

The D.C. chapter of the Sierra Club testified at a City Council hearing November 17 in support of the streetcar plan issued by the city’s Department of Transportation (DDot). Speaking for the chapter, Bradley Green said the proposed 37-mile streetcar network would help connect neighborhoods and improve the environment. He also praised DDoT director Gabe Klein for making streetcars a priority for the department and investing needed resources into bringing them back to the city.

The Sierra Club’s testimony led off a long list of appearances by interested organizations and individuals at the hearing, which was sponsored by the Council’s Public Works and Transportation Committee. DDoT’s streetcar plan is required by the council in order for DDot to get all of the appropriated streetcar funds in this year’s budget.

Here is the complete testimony:

Testimony of Bradley Green, Member, Transportation Committee, Washington, D.C., Chapter, Sierra Club before the Committee on Public Works and Transportation, Council of the District of Columbia

November 17, 2010

Chairman Graham and members of the committee, thank you for the opportunity to testify at this hearing.  My name is Bradley Green, and I am here today as a representative of the Sierra Club’s Washington, D.C., Chapter and its 3,000 members in the District of Columbia. We support the Streetcar Project Comprehensive Plan Approval Resolution of 2010.

The Sierra Club supports land use and transportation policies that will make D.C. a more sustainable and energy-efficient city.  This means linking up our neighborhoods with a network of convenient transit options, clustering mixed use development around Metrorail stations and along Metrobus and future streetcar routes, and re-designing our streetscape to make it safer and friendlier for bicycling and walking.  By giving our residents convenient and inexpensive alternatives to driving, we can take cars off our streets thereby reducing traffic congestion, giving us cleaner air to breathe and reducing carbon dioxide emissions, which contribute to climate change.

The District’s planned 37-mile network of streetcar lines will mark an important step forward for our city toward meeting these goals.  Streetcars will fill an important void in our existing transit system, connecting our neighborhoods in a way that Metrorail currently does not.  Streetcars will bring new and improved transit options to corridors served by bus routes that struggle to meet high demand or are plagued by congestion that diminishes their effectiveness.  Streetcars will also help promote greatly needed economic development in the neighborhoods they serve.  In Portland, Oregon, which pioneered the rebirth of streetcars in the U.S., $3.5 billion was invested within two blocks of their first streetcar line, and Portland is now expanding their streetcar system.

In last year and a half, the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) has made great progress in planning for the District’s streetcar system and in constructing the first two streetcar lines, on H Street and Benning Road NE and in Anacostia.  We thank Gabe Klein for making streetcars a priority for DDOT and investing more resources in this initiative.  I would also like to thank the Council for investing about $50 million in streetcars earlier this year so that the H Street-Benning Road streetcar line can begin serving transit riders on schedule, by the spring of 2012.  While a portion of this funding was immediately available to DDOT, the Council required that DDOT provide the Council with a plan before $34.5 million of the funding could be released.

In recent weeks, DDOT submitted the required plan to the Council.  We believe that this is a good plan, and we urge the Council to approve it as soon as possible so that DDOT can receive this crucial funding and continue moving forward with construction of the H Street-Benning Road streetcar line without interruption.  This corridor will benefit greatly from improved transit service and the economic revitalization that streetcars will bring. The community is anxiously awaiting streetcar service.

Chairman Graham, I would like to thank you for scheduling this hearing so quickly in an effort to ensure that the Council is in a position to approve DDOT’s streetcar plan before the end of this year.  I urge this committee and the full Council to approve the bill as soon as possible.

Thank you.

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