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Hill Talk: Streetcars for H Street Clear a Hurdle

One less barrier stands in the way of streetcars running along H Street and Benning Road Northeast.

On Tuesday afternoon, the D.C. Council used a complicated legislative maneuver to loosen up laws approved in 1888 and 1889 that prohibited overhead power in parts of the District designated as the Old City, and the council will consider a permanent version of the revamped law on July 13. The move will allow planners to move ahead with overhead power, according to Charles Allen, chief of staff to Ward 6 Councilmember Tommy Wells (D). That allows them to make progress on other parts of the project, including buying more streetcars and equipment. Allen said the Federal Transit Administration will now be able to make a decision on a grant that would go toward more streetcars.

“They couldn’t approve of a grant that relied on using the cars with overhead wires when technically you couldn’t use overhead wires,” he explained.

Ultimately, planners hope to test streetcars along the corridor toward the end of 2011 and have them running in 2012, Allen said.

The streetcars, along both the H Street corridor and a route in Anacostia, have had a bumpy road. Council Chairman Vincent Gray stripped funding for the new transit system in late May and then quickly reinstated it after the public complained. D.C. bought three streetcars and has had them in storage at a Metro rail yard since December, but Allen said they hope to buy six more.

The streetcar project became part of a previously planned streetscape renovation along H Street Northeast. Workers have torn up and replaced the north side of the road from Third Street almost to the intersection with 13th Street and will continue with the south side of the street.

More Parking Now Available
For Barracks Row Visitors

Barracks Row has 54 more parking spaces to offer visitors, no small feat in the bustling neighborhood adjacent to Eastern Market.

A lot previously reserved for Marines working at the barracks is now available to the public in two-hour increments from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. and in four-hour increments at night for $1.50 per hour, according to Sharon Bosworth, marketing manager for Barracks Row Main Street. The lot is under the overpass of interstates 295 and 395 on Eighth Street Southeast.

Though the lot will alleviate the parking crunch, Bosworth said her group would welcome even more spots.

“We’re always snooping around for parking,” she said. “That is a huge issue for us, just like any other urban shopping area.”

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