On Friday, Mayor Vincent Gray released his first budget, and there is good news for the future of streetcars in D.C. His capital budget includes $99.3 million toward construction of streetcar lines in four corridors over the next five fiscal years (FY2012-17). This is unexpected good news in an otherwise bleak year for D.C.’s budget.
The cover of the capital budget document also includes a photo of a streetcar, and the budget narrative includes a compelling rationale for why streetcars will be a good investment for the District’s future:
“The DC Streetcar system will enhance mobility for city residents, accommodate continued growth in population and employment, greatly improve access to jobs, connect neighborhoods and activity centers, and support sustainable economic growth for the District of Columbia.”
It goes on to state:
“The streetcar will also stimulate more intense mixed-use developement along streetcar corridors, consistent with the city’s Comprehensive Plan. The system will serve as a catalyst for encouraging a pattern of high-quality, transit-oriented development and strengthening neighborhoods across the city.”
Clearly, this is only a downpayment on D.C.’s planned 37-mile streetcar system. The D.C. government will need to continue to seek federal funding and financial contributions from the business community. But this budget demonstrates a commitment to moving forward. And it goes a long way towards erasing Mayor Gray’s streetcar funding nightmare last year and signaling to streetcar advocates that he’s a supporter too.