Tuesday, September 21, 2010

D.C. Streetcar Construction Update (Sept 19, 2010): H Street/Benning Rd Line

While the Anacostia streetcar line is, so far, a line that begins nowhere and ends nowhere, the H Street line is smack-dab in the heart of a busy commercial district in Northeast Washington. From its western terminus at 3rd Street NE near Washington Union Station, the two-track line proceeds east to a junction with Benning Road and then continues almost to the Anacostia commercial district. Work has been fairly steady on this line, thus on this visit progress was noticeable since our last (May 2, 2010).

The city is also gussying-up this corridor with new sidewalks, a park (to be constructed in the lot on the left in the photo below), and modern sculpture here and there. The east end of the line is completed, and the west end has one track finished and another under construction. The only remaining gap is the block bounded by 13th and 14th Street, where the line must cross a five-way intersection to reach the completed segment on Benning Road.

For this report, I shot pictures (as I have for past reports) on a quiet Sunday morning. The photos below depict the H Street NE streetcar line as of September 19, 2010, starting at its western end (H and 3rd Streets NE) and proceeding east. A few were taken while on foot but most were shot through the windshield of my Jeep, dead bugs 'n' all. In the first photo, the overpass across Union Station's yard is directly behind me:

I was surprised to find this relic standing to the side of the streetcar right of way, evidently a very old police call box. I've since learned the city is preserving these old fellows. More at http://www.washingtonhistory.com/?q=content/call-box-project :

In this view between 3rd and 4th Streets, I turned around facing west:

Facing east again:

And here is where nothing has happened yet, the H Street block between 13th and 14th Streets. Straight ahead H Street encounters a busy five-points intersection with Bladensburg Rd, Florida Ave, Maryland Ave, and Benning Rd. Streetcar tracks have been installed just to the west of the intersection, then continue to their eastern end near the Anacostia River (Oklahoma Ave): 
Hello, what's this? Ah, good old H Street, where it's never dull:
In the photo below we're approaching five points to show where the tracks resume. We won't go any farther on this trip, however, as the line has been completed from here on and we've shown it already in the May report:
Turning around and heading back west now:
And we're back to our starting point at H and 3rd Streets:
Off to the right are several interesting new decorative features, starting with these retro-style streetlamps hung with fancy red signs proclaiming "H Street NE":
Even the new sidewalk got special treatment. The sign to the right announces, "Rehabilitation of H St., N.E. from 3rd Street, N.E. to 14th Street, N.E.":
Behind the sign above is an empty lot in the process of being converted into a park. So far, several pieces of outdoor sculpture have been planted, including this unexplained creation that appears to depict someone escaping out the apex of the Washington Monument:
That's it for this report, which I hope you found interesting. I'll be back with an update when there's something worthwhile to report . . . John

D.C. Streetcar Construction Update (Sept 19, 2010): Anacostia Line

Source: www.bing.com

Construction on this line has been oh . . . so . . . slow. For awhile last winter, nothing happened for weeks. I checked again May 5 (see archived blog for that date), and yet again found very little new. I began to wonder if they'd finish in time for the Tricentennial.

This time, however (Sunday morning, September 19), I found something had moved. There was actual, perceptible progress. Let's take a look. Below is the north end-of-track on Firth Sterling Avenue. At my back is Suitland Parkway. I'm not sure what's being done in that hole on the left, but the second track, on the right beyond the Jersey walls, is now finished:

I'm straddling the Jersey wall so you can see the completed track on the west side of Firth Sterling. Last May, they had just started work on this track:

And directly behind me, just beyond Suitland Parkway, the CSX ex-B&O Shepherd Branch lies buried in the weeds. This is the route, I believe, that the streetcar line will eventually follow en route to the Anacostia Metro station:

Now, let's reverse direction and head south down Firth Sterling to see the finished parade of street lights, which we're guessing will one day support catenary:

The two tracks form an S-curve as they negotiate the gap under I-295. They're completed now and tidy-looking--well, except for the center of the road:

Crossing under I-295 we were pleased to find work had pretty much been wrapped up on the curve that turns the line down South Capitol Street. This view is from the west side of the interstate, looking back north:

Now, dear reader, turn 180 degrees and you'll see the two tracks continuing along South Capitol Street and then merging into a single track in the distance:

Let's zoom in a bit. The junction itself is still under construction and switching equipment remains to be installed:

Walking south down the now-finished tracks, we spot something new--a turnout being built to take a northbound trolley across South Capitol Street into a yet-to-be-built maintenance shed on the left. The turnout is off to the right, and directly in front of the camera is a gash carved into the southbound lane of the highway that will one day accommodate a track over to the shed:

The next few shots examine the turnout in some detail. In the background you can see a metal box between the rails that apparently houses a motor for shifting the switch points:

 Now we're looking north at the turnout:

And here is where the turnout leads toward across the street--at present, to an empty lot:

We wrap up this report by turning back around to the south (Getting dizzy?) and staring at the same end-of-track in the weeds we've been seeing since the project began:

Let's hope the next report will contain a bit more drama. Meanwhile, be sure to see my separate report on the H Street NE streetcar line's construction, which is seeing real progress.