During its December 7 legislative meeting, the D.C. Council approved two important pieces of streetcar legislation to help the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) keep making progress on construction of the H Street-Benning Road and the Anacostia streetcar lines.
The Council approved the Streetcar Project Comprehensive Plan Approval Resolution of 2010, which releases to DDOT the remaining $34.5 million that the Council approved for streetcars earlier this year but made contingent upon DDOT delivering a streetcar plan to the Council.
On the first of two required votes, the Council also voted to approve the Transportation Infrastructure Amendment Act of 2010, which would authorize the use of overhead wires to power streetcars on the H Street-Benning Road streetcar line “between the intersection of North Capitol Street and H Street, N.E. on the west and the Anacostia River on the east[.]“ In July, the Council approved an earlier version of the bill as emergency legislation, which had only temporary effect. The new bill, for which the Council is using regular legislative procedures, would have permanent effect. The Council is expected to schedule the second vote on this bill before the end of the year.
In addition to authorizing the use of overhead streetcar wires on H Street and Benning Road NE, the bill establishes a formal procedure for DDOT to seek authority to use overhead wires to power future streetcar lines. It would require the mayor to “develop a plan for the use of aerial wires for each phase or extension of the streetcar transit system and submit the plan to the Council” for approval within a 45-day legislative review period or the plan would be deemed disapproved.
The legislation also establishes two overhead wire-free zones: “(1) Along the National Mall in the cross-axis area that extends from the U.S. Capitol on the east to the Lincoln Memorial on the west and from the White House on the north to the Jefferson Memorial on the south, including federal properties abutting this cross-axis area; and (2) Along Pennsylvania Avenue between the Capitol and the White House.”