26 May 2010

Chairman Gray Cuts Streetcar Funding Overnight

image uploaded by Mr. T in DC on Flickr

According to a Greater Greater Washington post this morning, the Chair of the DC City Council (and mayoral candidate), Vincent Gray, eliminated virtually all of the funding necessary for the H Street/Benning Road Streetcar line, which is halfway completed.

Sources at the council are reporting surprise this morning as they opened the budget and saw the cuts which only leaves a few million dollars — not enough to pay for the cars needed to run on the tracks, the terminal points, or the connection to Union Station — which puts in serious jeopardy the federal grant application to extend the line down Benning Road into Ward 7.

If you would like to call to voice your support for Streetcars, Gray’s office number is 202-724-8032.  To Email: vgray@dccouncil.us.

Latest reports from streetcar supporters calling Gray’s office are indicating that his office is now working to restore the funding. Now the Chairman is saying he is cutting all capital investment in streetcars and that he wants the city to spend more time studying and designing streetcars.

Gray’s budget will delay streetcars by a minimum of 2 years. As on now the earliest the cars would run would be 2014.

Admittedly I have a personal stake in this as a long time H Street neighbor and as an employee of the Atlas Performing Arts Center. But I’m not the only one who took a chance on the promise of streetcars and the change they could bring.   This decision has some potentially devastating repercussions — residential values, commercial investments, etc.  Talk about a short-sighted move!

Tracks have been laid, sidewalks torn up, business dramatically affected. As I wrote in a post to the Moms on the Hill earlier today, H Street development has come so far. The new businesses and theatres are here because of that promise and a dream for the future. Elimination of this project now while tracks are being laid would be devastating for the neighborhood specifically of course but think also of what that broken promise says about our city. Imagine crossing those empty tracks for years and how demoralizing that would be.

THIH will keep you posted.

UPDATE: The budget, with the streetcar cuts, just passed.

UPDATE: Ward 6 Council Member Tommy Wells voted against the budget because of the streetcar cuts.  They may be able to do something with an amendment this afternoon. Call or email Kwame Browns’ office (202) 724-8174 kbrown@dccouncil.us

UPDATE: DCist has more details in their latest post.

UPDATE: It looks like the $47 has been found to restore the project. More info at Greater Greater Washington.

Tags: ,

What's trending

23 responses to “Chairman Gray Cuts Streetcar Funding Overnight”

  1. Janet says:

    Wow, that’s just shameful.

    I can’t possibly see supporting Gray for mayor now.

  2. Angie says:

    Devastating. We took a chance too and just hought our first home at Florida Ave NE and 10th. Gray lost my vote – but I hope to see the community at Tommy Wells’ H Street hours tomorrow morning to talk about next steps.

  3. Angie says:

    Just heard from Tommy Wells that he’s offering an amdt this afternoon to restore some funding. Calls/emails to the rest of the Council asking for support the amdt are critical.

  4. Trulee says:

    Maybe Wells will be willing to trade the $5.5 million for renovating the Old Naval Hospital to pay part of the cost for restoring the streetcar development program.

    Or maybe pigs will fly.

  5. 10th St says:

    And Tommy wonders why his popularity lags the further north he goes across the Hill…

    Send a message to Council urging them to restore the funding this afternoon here https://secure2.convio.net/sierra/site/Advocacy?cmd=display&page=UserAction&id=4171

  6. Jill says:

    Gray’s staffer just gave me an earful that the funding is not cut. Something about reexamining the process and doing the long-term financial planning that was lacking when it was launched. Some amount of finger-pointing that Fenty started the streetcar development without enough planning and funding. Sounds like H Street is the latest victim of the mayor’s race. Let’s make sure the residents and taxpayers are the winners here.

  7. Eden says:

    As a nurse practitioner to poor kids in Congress Heights, I was angry when Mr Gray voted against the beverage tax (I mean REALLY???), and here’s another strike against him. To do this so swiftly is underhanded.

  8. Jon says:

    How assinine to cut funding to a project that is already started.

  9. JHoward says:

    This is a terrible decision. I have sent Mr. Gray an email telling him so. I hope others will do the same.

  10. Trulee says:

    I am 110% for streetcars, the sooner the better, but…

    some of the blame for this falls on DDOT’s Gabe Klein and his big boosters, such as Tommy Wells.

    DDOT and Wells held some excellent cheerleader-ish public hearings about this, and made a nice brochure, but fell far short on the nitty-gritty.

    Obviously, they did not count the votes correctly on the Council.

    Related to that, on at least 2 occasions I know about, Klein/DDOT were on the agenda for ANC meetings in the neighborhood then cancelled at the last minute or just plain did not show up. The broad strokes of the plan may be visionary, but this push for streetcars has always been a little sloppy around the edges, and the general good-feelings were never mobilized neighborhood-by-neighborhood the way they had to be if Wells wanted to fend off this kind of last-minute knifing.

    No one who supports streetcars wanted to be the bad guy and say that, but there it is. Now the streetcar project gets a year or two to fill in the details that were missing and just generally tighten up the proposal and nail down the details.

    Where are we now? We have questions, no answers:

    Where do the streetcar lines go? To be determined.

    How much is the fare? Not decided yet.

    How many riders? Not yet estimated.

    Do streetcars cannabilize bus/circulator ridership, or create new public transit riders? No studies done.

    What does the budget look like? We aren’t that far along yet.

    What has to be done to allow the appropriate parts of the system to get overhead wires, and where would it be wireless (if anywhere)? We’ll work that out when the time comes….

    I am sorry the Council did this, but on one point, Chairman Gray is right and Gabe Klein/Tommy Wells are wrong….this project will benefit from a year of real, hard study. Then let’s get streetcars rolling!

  11. whoa_now says:

    Trulee..no offense but I completely disagree that all we need is “year of real, hard study. Then lets get streetcars rolling”…that is a cop out and a cowardly answer.

    the only way the streetcars were going to get done in the first place is the mashing forward.

    H street is more than halfway there..finish that then study and make improvements to the other phases…if it stops now, Wells is right, we won’t see street cars for a decade.

  12. whoa_now says:

    And Trulee,

    you don’t sound like you’re 110% for street cars.

  13. Tim Krepp says:


    Those are all good questions. If there were only a group of Councilmembers who would get together and dicuss it ahead of time. Maybe we could call it a Committee or something.

    Nah, we’ll just wait until 2 am and screw everyone over at the last minute.

    Gray’s respect for process and would be a lot more convincing if he actually followed one.

  14. Derail Gray says:


    Please tell me how allocating $50M for parks in Georgetown answers any of your questions. Or how this 2am move was in any way a reflection of public support. If anything it is a corrupt, pandering move to get donors in NW. And the businesses on H st will suffer indefinitely because it.

  15. Maria says:

    Frankly, when the blame game begins to divide us and take us away from the issue at hand (namely, excellent project gets the shaft financially speaking), you know someone didn’t have the people’s best interests at heart.

    • lou says:

      Just sent an email to Gray telling him that this scheme just lost him my vote for mayor.

  16. Graham says:

    Gray is an Idiot. and Tommy does nothing. Love our Government

  17. Jon says:

    “real, hard study” = red tape and delays

    There are need-based reasons for additional public transportation in parts of DC and other cities that are proven success stories. Another year of hard study is another year of increased traffic, parking fights, and stress on the bus system.

  18. Jen DeMayo Jen DeMayo says:

    Graham, Tommy is the one who proposed the amendment to restore the funding so I’m not clear on why you would say he does nothing.
    Trulee, I have been at many streetcar meetings..The maps are there, they know how they will be powered in the initial stages…I even heard the fare question asked and the DDOT rep said it would likely be comparable to the circulator.
    And cannibalizing circulator/bus ridership? Really?? Because right now we need a cute little shuttle to get people to H Street.

    The DC area is growing and Metro is bursting.
    The streetcar system is designed to be more of an in-town way of getting around leaving Metro to what it does best, bringing people in from the suburbs.

  19. Roxie Houge says:

    I just got teh following email from Kwame Brown:

    On Wed, May 26, 2010 at 4:33 PM, Brown, Kwame (COUNCIL) wrote:

    We the Council just voted to move the funding forward.

    Subject: Please restore full funding for the H street streetcar project!

  20. Trulee says:

    Jen, I have been to streetcar meetings, too–the original Ward 6 meeting an an elementary school, the open house at the ANC meeting room, the display at Metro Center (…and I attended an ANC meeting where DDOT was on the agenda to talk streetcars and did not show).

    I am 110% for streetcars. Prick me and I bleed streetcar red.

    I wish the leaders on our side of the fight for streetcars were as well prepared for this fight as the leaders of the anti-streetcar forces (Capitol Hill Restoration Society, Committee of 100 on the Federal City).

    I have seen the maps, and I love love love the 8th Street SE line connecting Barracks’ Row and H Street NE. I will buy you a months’ worth of streetcar fares if that line actually does go up 8th Street SE. I will fight for it, but that one I think we’ll lose.

    So the maps are not final, the propulsion system is not final, there is no plan for overturning the Federal law against wires in Old DC, no ridership surveys–this is all stuff that could be and should be handled in a year of real, hard study. Our side’s lack of preparation explains why we were vulnerable to a last-minute sneak attack like this.

    All’s well that ends well, but there IS a lot of study needed, and I suspect at least $37 million of the $47 million the Council “found” will prove to be strictly contingent on DDOT doing the study and work they should have done already.

    The “wrong-way” covers installed on H Street NE are a tiny example of why it does not make sense to keep “mashing forward.” Plan first, then execute.

  21. Joeyg says:

    I would be most happy if DC government would scrape the trolley car system. It doesn’t make fiscal sense, we don’t have enough money for it and it should have really been put to a vote – at least – to see if residents really want it. I don’t believe we need them. For two years now on Benning Road and H st, have torn up the streets, leaving many businesses shattered because people who normally come to DC to visit family members and hang out, had no where to park. It has taken a personal toll on me because I support a long-time business on Benning Road and when they started ripping up the streets in ’08, the customers of the business I am referring to could not find adequate parking. This city makes the most assinine decisions which costs too much money and taxes on the quality of life for living, breathing human beings.

Social Media Auto Publish Powered By : XYZScripts.com
Add to Flipboard Magazine.