Tuesday, October 27, 2009

New streetcar tracks being laid along Benning Road and H Street NE in Washington, D.C.


The District's Department of Transportation has launched two construction projects for returning streetcars to Washington, only this time with catenary. (Power on the original system, which ended in 1962, was carried through an underground conduit and accessed through a slot centered between the rails.)

We reported earlier on work that began this summer in Anacostia, mostly along Firth Sterling Avenue. Now we have photos taken October 26, 2009 while driving along the downtown project, which runs from Benning Road and Oklahoma Avenue NE on a westward course to the intersection of H Street NE and 3rd Street, near Washington Union Station. You can see this route on the map above, highlighted in bright yellow.

My wife, Sheila Wexler, drove while I shot through the windshield or popped up through the sun roof with my camera, like a prairie dog. Given the congestion, which you'll see below, we had no illusions about stopping repeatedly as I hopped in and out of the car! This was all done "on the fly."

We began our rolling photo adventure at the east end of track, where Metro crosses above Benning Rd at the intersection with Oklahoma Avenue. Most pictures were taken looking west. In the background you can see construction barricades, where the line begins:

A closer look at the east end of the line, platforms plainly visible:

End of track at this same intersection:

A close-up of track construction. This is a two-track line, but at this end-point it wasn't clear whether the two came together into one, or not. As stated above, I never got out of the car:

An overview of this final stop on the east end. The Oklahoma Avenue sign is visible on the pole on the right (background):
This is one of my prairie-dog shots taken through the sun roof and shooting behind us (looking east). The intersection is Benning and 20th St NE. Note that at this end of the line, vehicular traffic moves on both sides of the streetcar tracks:

Facing west again, this was taken at Benning Rd and 19th NE:

Benning Road and 1uth Street, looking back toward the east:

Benning Road becomes H Street NE at 15th Street and continues west. This westward view is at H and 12th. Note that construction had not begun between the previous photograph and this one; the project apparently began at each end and is working toward the middle. On the other side of the street beyond the turret, however, you can see where construction resumes--now on the north side of the street instead of the middle:

A view of early work at H Street NE between 9th and 8th Street:

Here's where they're going to it full tilt at the west end of the line: H Street and 8th Street:

Looking back east at H Street and 4th Street NE:

And here we reach the western end of track, at H Street and 3rd NE:

The same location (H and 3rd) in September, 1947:
It was not clear, however, when this line will be finished. Mayor Fenty has asked that the H Street line's work be accellerated. Originally the city's plans called for this and the Anacostia line to be done in "3 to 5 years" (from 2009). Time (and funds) will tell . . .

1 comment:

  1. Mr. Fuller,

    Thank you for providing this visual update of the H St Streetcar project. As a local resident, we are certainly looking forward to the growth and revitilization this will provide our neighborhood.

    I am curious about how you came across the photo from 1947. I consider myself an "amateur historian," and I am very much interested in the H St and Capitol Hill area. If you have a moment to respond, could you please point me in the right direction where I could find similiar photos and documentation?

    Thank you,