Long-Delayed D.C. Streetcar Ready for Passengers

Plus Chicago seeks a faster train to O’Hare from the Loop, and more in our weekly New Starts.

A streetcar is seen traveling along H Street NE in Washington, D.C. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

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Our weekly “New Starts” roundup of new and noteworthy transportation projects worldwide.

D.C. Residents Skeptical of New Streetcar’s Usefulness
This Saturday, those empty streetcars that have been gliding up and down H Street and Benning Road NE in Washington, D.C. for months will be empty no longer. The long-delayed streetcar line is finally opening for revenue service.

Actually, make that “non-revenue service.” As a way to get District residents to forgive the long gestation period for this line, rides will be free for an unspecified introductory period.

WUSA9’s report on the decade-late opening of the $200 million streetcar line featured random people interviewed near 13th and H streets NE generally expressing skepticism about the streetcar’s usefulness — “If it’s extended, it might be useful,” one person said — and commenting on its cost. Some interviewees said they would take the line for the curiosity factor while it’s free to ride but probably won’t use it once fares take effect. According to the report, that will happen once the District Department of Transportation figures out how much to charge for a trip and how the fares will be collected.

Along with its report, WUSA also noted the “cheesy” video DDOT produced to instruct people how, and how not, to ride the streetcar. “It’s supposed to be a parody of ’80s movie montages, but it ends up being over-the-top cringeworthy,” the report said. “On the plus side, it’s very gifable” — capable of being turned into GIFs for social sharing.

Warsaw OKs Two-Phase Metro Extension
The International Railway Journal reports that Warsaw Metro CEO Jerzy Lejk announced at the 2016 International Railway Summit that work will begin soon on the first of two expansions of the Metro’s east-west Line M2 in the sprawling capital of Poland.

People enter the subway station Rondo Daszynskiego in Warsaw, Poland. (AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski)

Each of the two expansions will add stations to both ends of the line. This first one will add six stations total; three will be located in a 3.44-km eastern extension and the other three in a 3.14-km western extension. Lejk said a general contractor will be appointed for this project soon. Work should commence in June or July and take 38 months to complete.

The second expansion will consist of a 2.14-km, two-station extension on one end and a 3-km, three-station extension on the other. Warsaw Metro expects to name a design firm for the second phase soon and let construction contracts in 2017.

Express Train to Airport in the Works for Chicago
The city of Chicago is planning to build a new express rail link between the Loop and O’Hare Airport. According to Railway Gazette International, Mayor Rahm Emanuel said on Feb. 14 that the city expects to select a contractor to develop designs for the proposed line in March.

Travelers walk to a train station at the O’Hare International Airport in Chicago. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

The new line would offer a quicker trip over the 30 km (18.6 miles) between the airport and downtown than the current CTA Blue Line rapid transit service.

The city’s Department of Aviation has already received three bids from prequalified firms. The winning bidder will analyze and develop conceptual designs and a project timeline. The city could award a final design, construction and financing contract as early as next year. Cost estimates haven’t been finalized, but the city aims to finance the project without taxpayer contributions.

“O’Hare is an essential economic engine for the city of Chicago,” Emanuel said. “By providing passengers with a faster, smarter and more efficient way to connect between O’Hare and downtown, we will take it to the next level.”

Know of a project that should be featured in this column? Send a Tweet with links to @MarketStEl using the hashtag #newstarts.

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Next City contributor Sandy Smith is the home and real estate editor at Philadelphia magazine. Over the years, his work has appeared in Hidden City Philadelphia, the Philadelphia Inquirer and other local and regional publications. His interest in cities stretches back to his youth in Kansas City, and his career in journalism and media relations extends back that far as well.

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