Gray touts re­vival of street­cars for Dis­trict

But con­cerns linger about 2013 startup

The Washington Times Daily - - Metro - BY TOM HOW­ELL JR.

D.C. of­fi­cials hope a bur­geon­ing street­car pro­gram will re­vi­tal­ize parts of the city — es­pe­cially east of the Ana­cos­tia River — when it be­gins in 2013 de­spite lin­ger­ing con­cerns about its im­pact and abil­ity to op­er­ate ef­fec­tively.

Mayor Vin­cent C. Gray told the D.C. Coun­cil he per­son­ally saw the eco­nomic turn­about that street­cars brought to a sec­tion of Port­land, Ore., dur­ing a pair of trips to the West Coast.

“I think that’s the same vi­sion we have for this sys­tem as well,” he said at his monthly break­fast with city law­mak­ers.

Mr. Gray and his ad­min­is­tra­tion Wed­nes­day laid out their fund­ing and gov­er­nance plans for the pro­gram, part of a tran­sit-cen­tric meet­ing that also ex­plored long-term im­prove­ment to the Metro sys­tem and the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion’s decision to trim 10 per­cent from the fed­eral gov­ern­ment’s $150 mil­lion Metro al­lo­ca­tion, prompt­ing city of­fi­cials to say they have “re­neged” on a pre­vi­ous pledge.

The D.C. street­car pro­gram will start with a line from Union Sta­tion to Ben­ning Road’s in­ter­sec­tion with Ok­la­homa Av­enue in North­east, an ini­tia­tive that brings tran­sit op­tions to the up-and-com­ing H Street Cor­ri­dor.

The city also laid a small seg­ment of track in Ana­cos­tia and is study­ing the best way to ex­tend the line to the foot of the 11th Street Bridge.

Tracks are in place on the in­au­gu­ral sec­tion along H Street, and the city is study­ing an ex­ten­sion of that line to Ge­orge­town on the west side and to the Ben­ning Road Metro sta­tion to the east, con­nect­ing the city through a mode of trans­porta­tion that van­ished from the Dis­trict many decades ago. The Dis­trict used 200 miles of street­car tracks in the 20th cen­tury be­fore shut­ting down ser­vice in Jan­uary 1962.

Plans to jump-start a new pro­gram have hit fund­ing and plan­ning snags in re­cent years, lead­ing to un­cer­tainty over its fu­ture.

The D.C. Depart­ment of Trans­porta­tion on Wed­nes­day out­lined ways to fund and main­tain the sys­tem, which is ex­pected to re­ceive $237.3 mil­lion in city cap­i­tal funds through fis­cal 2017. Po­ten­tial rev­enue streams also in­clude spe­cial as­sess­ments on prop­er­ties that ben­e­fit from the line, new prop­erty-tax rev­enue and sales taxes from de­vel­op­ment along the sys­tem and park­ing fees that are ded­i­cated to tran­sit ini­tia­tives.

Coun­cil mem­ber Tommy Wells, Ward 6 Demo­crat and long­time pro­po­nent of the street­cars, said the mayor is “ab­so­lutely” ded­i­cated to the pro­gram but his ad­min­is­tra­tion has not pro­cured enough cars to get the pro­gram off to a solid start.

The city only has three cars it pur­chased some time ago, and it typ­i­cally takes about 17 or 18 months to ob­tain more, ac­cord­ing to Mr. Wells.

AN­NAPO­LIS | The Mary­land Se­nate killed a bill Wed­nes­day that would have al­lowed gas-util­ity com­pa­nies to hit con­sumers with as much as a $2 monthly sur­charge to pay for pipe­line and in­fra­struc­ture im­prove­ments.

The bi­par­ti­san mea­sure was voted down 24-22, fall­ing two votes short of pas­sage af­ter two days of de­bate in the 47-mem­ber cham­ber.

Op­po­nents ar­gued the bill would open the flood­gates for providers want­ing to raise prices and would fur­ther hand­i­cap res­i­dents fac­ing a shaky econ­omy and sev­eral tax and fee in­creases

a warn­ing for ex­ces­sive speed last month. Fac­ing scru­tiny over whether Ms. Toles re­ceived pref­er­en­tial treat­ment when she was pulled over, top brass and le­gal ex­perts from the po­lice depart­ment re­viewed the in­ci­dent and is­sued a $510 ticket for reck­less driv­ing.

Dis­trict court records show Ms. Toles, Suit­land Demo­crat, re­quested a hear­ing in the reck­less driv­ing case March 12, five days af­ter she called a news con­fer­ence to of­fer a brief apol­ogy for the in­ci­dent.

“I of­fer my ut­most and sin­cere apolo­gies for this to my con­stituents and col­leagues as well as all county res­i­dents,” Ms Toles said on March 7. “I trust that we can now move for­ward with the very im­por­tant busi­ness of the county.”

Be­fore be­ing is­sued the more se­ri­ous reck­less driv­ing ticket, which would also add six points to her driv­ing record, Ms. Toles said she in­tended to pay the fine for the ini­tial traf­fic vi­o­la­tion.

She did not respond to re­quests for com­ment Wed­nes­day to ex­plain why she was choos­ing to con­test the ad­di­tional ticket.

Po­lice have said a speed­ing ticket was not is­sued at the time be­cause the of­fi­cer, who is now ex­pected to ap­pear as a wit­ness in the court case, did not have a radar gun and was un­able to de­ter­mine Ms. Toles’ ex­act speed. Of­fi­cials, how­ever, said the of­fi­cer reached speeds of up to 105 mph in the 55 mph zone try­ing to catch up with Ms. Toles’ county-owned car.

At the be­gin­ning of March, the County Coun­cil banned her from us­ing her county-owned ve­hi­cle un­til the traf­fic ci­ta­tion is re­solved.

Ms. Toles was tick­eted four other times in the past three years for traf­fic of­fenses, ac­cord­ing to on­line Mary­land court records.

PHO­TO­GRAPHS BY AN­DREW HARNIK/THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Bill Lums­den, head of dis­till­ing and whisky cre­ation at Glen­morangie Co., takes a sip of scotch Wed­nes­day at Mount Ver­non’s re­con­structed dis­tillery. Steve Bashore, man­ager of his­toric trades at Mount Ver­non, la­bels a bar­rel of scotch. With steam ris­ing from a 210-gal­lon cop­per boiler, Dave Pickerell, the es­tate’s mas­ter dis­tiller, takes in­ven­tory of the bar­rels, which will be aged for three years and auc­tioned for char­i­ties around the world.

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