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DC considers scrapping fleet of streetcars after spending $200 million on new streetcar system

The District Department of Transportation in Washington, D.C., is considering replacement vehicles for the expensive D.C. streetcar system that launched two years ago. The DDOT said it's having issues finding parts to complete streetcar repairs. (Tom Williams/Getty Images)

The District Department of Transportation in Washington, D.C., is considering replacement vehicles for the expensive D.C. streetcar system that launched two years ago.

The DDOT said it's having issues finding parts to complete streetcar repairs in a timely fashion. One parts manufacturer has gone out of business, and the other is overseas, WTOP-FM reported.

“Long-term parts availability will likely require reverse engineering parts,” DDOT officials wrote to the council’s Committee on Transportation and the Environment. The agency said it's looking at its future options for acquiring vehicles that consider "the feasibility of disposal of the current fleet.”

The typical lifespan of a streetcar is 31 years, according to the Federal Transit Administration.

What was the cost of the project?

The agency spent about $200 million to construct the initial 2.2-mile stretch that runs from Union Station along Avenue H and Benning Road to Oklahoma Avenue.

DDOT's long-term budget includes at least $25 million to be spent buying streetcars in late 2020 or early 2021.

Those vehicles would service the current 2.2-mile stretch and the Benning Road extension that's expected to begin construction in 2020, pending design and federal environmental approvals.

The Benning Road extension has a projected cost of $89 million and $20 million for additional streetcars. An additional $95 million will go to related road and bridge construction improvements.

The next phase, estimated at $400 million, will extend the line to Georgetown. There are no active plans to extend the system beyond Georgetown, DDOT said.

What else?

There's currently no charge to ride the streetcars and DDOT has no plans to charge riders until the next extension opens.

“DDOT would develop the timeline and fare collection methods closer to the start of Benning Extension revenue service,” the agency wrote.

In January, there was an average of 3,061 riders per weekday and 2,177 per weekend day, according to WTOP. The number of riders is expected to increase during the summer months.

One last thing…
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