Mayor Adrian Fenty, Ward 6 Councilmember Tommy Wells (D) and other D.C. officials gathered last week to celebrate the start of an effort to make the shops, bars and restaurants on the H Street Northeast corridor more accessible through a trolley line and other improvements.
Work to upgrade streets began in December on Benning Road, and crews will move to H Street in March, D.C. Department of Transportation officials said Thursday. H Street’s roads already have been partially repaired.
“For so long, the neighborhoods around H Street Northeast have held out for the promise of this city to turn its energy, its ideas and its help to reinvigorate these businesses and residences on this corridor,” Wells said. “Today marks the start of an immense city investment in the future of this great street.”
Fenty added that he and Wells have discussed the project over the 13 months they’ve been in office.
The streetcar portion of the project is expected to begin next month and last at least five years. Current funding covers only the placement of tracks on H Street from Third to 15th streets, and up Benning Road to Oklahoma Avenue.
Plans are for the track to eventually extend to Union Station to the southwest and across the Anacostia River to the other streetcar line under construction on Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue.
The streetcars themselves have not yet been included in the budget.
“Bringing a trolley back to H Street puts a new transit option in the mix, connecting Union Station to communities east of the river and providing greater access to restaurants, shopping and other retail,” Wells said.
The total price tag of the current project is about $76 million. That includes $50 million for the streetscape and streetcar tracks and $25 million for a business financing plan that Fenty also announced last week.
Businesses looking to open a store larger than 10,000 square feet can apply for funding, which then will be repaid through property and sales taxes.
Some of the streetscape funds will go toward a new park at the “starburst” intersection at Maryland Avenue, Benning and Bladensburg roads and 15th and H streets.
The park will include a waterfall and a view of the Capitol down Maryland Avenue.
The final $1 million of the $76 million total includes $225,000 for an H Street shuttle bus for customers to help businesses survive during construction.
An additional $500,000 in grants will be available for facade improvements for property owners on H Street and other developing areas.
Construction on H Street is scheduled for Mondays through Saturdays from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.