Gray touts revival of streetcars for District
But concerns linger about 2013 startup
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.
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.