Practice safety runs continue, but DC streetcars still on hold

WASHINGTON -- It cost hundreds of millions to build and it has now been a year since the first D.C. streetcars rolled out for practice runs on H Street. Yet passengers are still not allowed on board.

So when will they? City officials don’t seem to have the answer to that question.

In fact, one District Department of Transportation official told us that they are not going to make the mistake of the Gray administration by promising a date and then not being able to make that date.

A year ago, D.C. residents were excited to see the streetcars on the streets of D.C. for training runs. Now, they are still training, but the excitement has turned to frustration.

“I’ve got a 3-year-old little girl who now just keeps pointing at an empty streetcar as it rolls on by,” said Ward 6 Councilmember Charles Allen. “It’s incredibly frustrating.”

He often gets an earful from residents and business owners in his ward who are tired of delays. Minutes before we spoke to him for an interview, he asked DDOT's chief when passengers will begin to ride them.

“Frankly, he's been consistent and he will not give a date because he doesn't want to put a date out there and then break it,” said Allen. “Frankly, the promise has been broken time and time again on H Street.”

So why aren't streetcars carrying passengers? Many of the deficiencies were laid out in an American Public Transportation Association review report. Eighteen issues from training to maintenance were revealed.

So far, DDOT said ten of those issues have been addressed.

One big problem that remains are cars parked on H Street. Vehicles continue to block the street where the streetcars travel through. We watched as a tow truck had to lead a streetcar down the road. A Pepco van had to bring in its mirror because it stuck out too far.

The plan is to paint red strips on the pavement to mark where cars should be and out of the way of the streetcars.

Jerrhonda Brooks works along H Street. She is eager to ride, but is also confused because her bus app also shows streetcar schedules even though streetcars aren't in service.

But Councilmember Allen said he has more confidence now than ever before because of new DDOT management, but he said his patience will last only so long.

“If I’m not seeing this running by next year, those alarm bells are going off,” he said.

We asked DDOT for an interview about the streetcar project, but they declined our request.

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