Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Update on D.C.'s streetcar projects (May 2, 2010)

March 9th of this year was my last report on the Anacostia streetcar line's construction; January 28th was my last on the H Street NE line. It was time for another look, so on Sunday, May 2, camera in hand, I hopped in the Jeep and headed for the District.

First stop was South Capitol Street at the intersection with Firth Sterling Avenue, Anacostia. On my last visit there had been no progress on this line. Alas, there was only slightly more this time: Work had begun on laying the second track in Firth Sterling. That was a revelation in itself; past observation had not convinced me the digging in the street across from the finished track was not utilities work. Happily, I was wrong.

What puzzled me was why the line had not been advanced southward beyond its end on South Capitol Street, nor north at the opposite end where Firth Sterling crosses Suitland Parkway. Not one shovelful of earth had been picked up in either location. A possible explanation may be that in a period of tight budgets, funds may have been diverted to speed completion of the H Street line. It's in a much busier part of town, with one end near Union Station, not far from Capitol Hill. The chance of it receiving more, faster patronage--not to mention notice by politicians--seems pretty likely. And yet, an inquiry made to a city official at the DC Streetcar Showcase (May 5) got the response that they both would be finished by 2012.

Let's get started. We begin with a half-dozen shots in Anacostia along Firth Sterling Avenue. I skipped South Capitol Street since nothing had changed since my last report:

Sigh. If only the Jeep were a high-railer:

Okay, time to head downtown . . . After visiting the moribund Anacostia job, I made my way across Capitol Hill to H Street NE at the intersection with 3rd Street, the western end of the line. After taking a few shots while on foot, I got back in the Jeep and began driving east on H Street, shooting pictures through the windshield. (Don't be surprised if you see bug smears in the pictures.) When I reached the eastern end of the line, I reversed and drove back to the beginning. Track-laying is substantially finished at the opposite ends of the line, partially finished in the H Street blocks between 8th and 13th, but nil in the block between 13th and 14th. There are new streetlight poles along the route; I'm wondering if they'll be used to support catenary.

And here we are at my usual starting point: H Street and 3rd NE, these pictures taken on foot. After the first three I'll be back in the Jeep headed east on H Street:

4th and H Streets NE:
6th and H Streets NE:
7th and H Streets NE:
8th and H Streets NE--two shots:

10th and H Streets NE:
11th and H Streets NE. Gotta love that hot-pink building:
13th and H Streets NE, the only block on this line where there's no construction yet:
14th and H Streets NE. Note the construction halfway up the block, on the right-hand side. It's coming from the east, of course, and has crossed through the five points intersection ahead. How will they cross it over to the left side in the block between 13th and 14th to join the trackage on the left (north) side?
A closer look at the construction in the 14th and H block. Man, the colors on some of these buildings just about cook your retinas. Good thing the sun wasn't out:
16th and Benning Road NE. We've now crossed eastbound through the five points intersection and bent slightly southward to follow Benning:
17th Street and Benning Road NE. "Dude! Look out for the trolley!" Just kidding:
24th Street and Benning Road NE, where the line is completely finished and prettified:
Oklahoma Avenue and Benning Road. The end is near--well, end of track, at the bottom of the hill near the Metro bridge:
Okay, kids; we've seen the end of the line--and it's not near nothin'. Let's turn the car around and head back west. This is 23rd and Benning, certain to be a popular spot for fried chicken fans who'll hop aboard the streetcar and wipe their greasy fingers on the straps and poles. Bring your own spray can of Mr. Clean:

21st and Benning Road NE:
20th and Benning Road NE:
17th and Benning Road NE:
We're still on Benning Road and are approaching where it runs out: the five points intersection with H Street, Bladensburg Road (off to the right), Florida Avenue, and Maryland Avenue. The track will continue through the intersection, as mentioned earlier, and continue west along H Street:
Hello, what's this? We've just crossed through five points and out the window of the Jeep, near Florida Avenue, I spied what appeared to be an old piece of streetcar rail jutting out of the asphalt. Could this be a ghostly remnant from D.C.'s original streetcar system, which really did run down H Street?
Getting ahold of myself after that bit of historical excitement, I proceeded westward into one of H Street's numerous colorful commercial blocks, this one between 13th and 14th Streets, where shovel has yet to meet pavement:
13th and H Street NE, where construction awaits the final join to the track one block east, behind me:
12th and H Streets NE:
8th and H Streets NE:
7th and H Streets NE:
6th and H Streets NE. The overpass crossing Union Station's yard is visible in the background:
3rd and H Streets NE, the west end of the line--for now. Go to my May 5 posting on the DC Streetcar Showcase and look at the poster with an artist's future conception for this location. It shows a tunnel where the white car is in the picture below, projected to run into Union Station. My understanding is that's 'way down the line, not Phase 1:
And we're done. Comments, thoughts and observations from  these pictures are welcomed. Hope you enjoyed the tour. I certainly had fun preparing it. It's exciting to see streetcars returning to a city that once had one of the world's finest systems.


No comments:

Post a Comment