Housing Complex

District Might Fast Track Georgia Avenue Streetcar to Walter Reed

The now-former site of the Walter Reed Army Medical Center is a prime site for development for lots of reasons: It's a big contiguous lot on a couple of major thoroughfares in the middle of relatively dense, prosperous neighborhoods. What it doesn't have is a metro stop, and a planned streetcar route is so far off it's not even worth thinking about.

That could change, now that the rubber's hit the road—again—with reuse planning. The city's consultants have been holding focus groups and leading tours with interested developers and tenants, and one thing has come through loud and clear: Prospective users would really like to see a streetcar there sooner rather than later, since it would add tremendous value to any housing or retail on the site (kind of like how a Circulator bus to Skyland signals the city's eagerness to make the development work). That value, in turn, could be leveraged to pay for the streetcar's construction, using a handful of financing mechanisms that you can read about here, or simply through charging developers more for the land that the District will have bought from the federal government.

Right now, the line from the Petworth to the Takoma metro stops is in Phase 2 of the still-entirely-conceptual overall system plan. But at tonight's Walter Reed Local Redevelopment Authority Committee meeting, director Eric Jenkins said they're considering moving it up into Phase 1, along with tracks from Union Station to Washington Circle and up 14th Street, over to Georgia Avenue, and up to the Petworth metro stop. That may have just gotten a little easier, with the Anacostia line having been delayed by complications with the 11th Street Bridge.

Of course, with no trolleys even running yet, this is all too far into the future to even put dates to. And there are two segments to go before a line up to Walter Reed could be useful. "To put a piece in that doesn't tie into the spine does not enhance connectivity," as District Department of Transportation director Terry Bellamy put it. And as Councilmember Muriel Bowser pointed out, there's been no discussion yet about the streetcar in Ward 4 neighborhoods, so there's no telling whether Anacostia-level skepticism might crop up.

But this does look like a re-ordering of priorities, based on a development opportunity that would benefit from it in the not-too-distant future. Shift your mental transit forecasting landscape accordingly.

  • http://www.warriortoo.org Petworth Yuppie Scum

    That would be beyond fantastic. I have dreamed of this and have been pretty sure it would happen all along---by 2085. Hell I was even thinking it may be a hover street car line by the time anyone considered it. I really like Northern Petworth/Brightwood but since I've stopped driving the lack of a metro stop has been bumming me out a bit. At least there are pretty good bus options on Georgia but a street car would be fantastic.

  • Randall M.

    I agree with Petworth Yuppie Scum, this area is desperate for that that sort of investment. As part of its community benefits package, maybe we can get Walmart to chip in a few millions of shillings and grease the wheels of the federales to get some tracks laid?

  • Thayer-D

    This is the biggest no brainer of all time for DC. The architectural fabric is beautiful and historic. One can see where the old trolley actually stopped by seeing the periodic mainstreets that appear as one travels the length of Georgia Avenue. The only changes I would propose is that the line ought to go straignt down 7th street in to Downtown and straigt up into Downtown Silver Spring.

    The Office of Historic Preservation ought to be brought in to preserve the excellent building stock that will only add to the character of the inevitable investment that would follow.

    In tying the trolley line to the Walter Reed project DC would be rehashing the history of many a early 20th century lines that where financed in conjunction with the development and developers to be serviced down the line. See Chevy Chase and it's relation to the now defunct Connecticut line.

    Bravo DC!

  • Skipper

    It's great to waste so much time planning for something that will never be built. Maybe next time, they can have a meeting with a ton of city officials to discuss the DC Flying Car Streetscape Project.

  • Native American JD

    Seconded that it needs to go to DTSS.

  • Jerome

    only thing the OHP is going to do is hold up or stop the project, OHP is not in favor of a lot of change to this city, DC will never become a truly world class city because the OHP will keep up in the 1800-1900 time frame

  • Kyle W

    Sounds like they are trying guys, lets give them the benefit of the doubt. It seems Ward 4 is quite pro-progress, this seems like a no-brainer. I will be following this one closely!

  • Brightwood 34

    This is a great.. I'll hold my excitements till the first set of tracks are installed.

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  • http://thegreatermarin.wordpress.com/ OctaviusIII

    This had better be center running, or God help us all.

    I'm crossing my fingers that H Street's line doesn't turn out to be the shitshow it could be.

  • Petworthian

    Well they shouldn't have to go through the silly argument about above ground lines that has been part of the delay on H Street, we already have'm all over Petworth. I hope Bowser works with Ward 4 residents to make this happen.

  • David

    If the Council (especially Muriel B) blocks streetcars, there will be hell to pay in 2014.

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