"I think it's fair to say that the entire streetcar program as was originally perhaps envisioned is possibly not going to happen," D.C. Councilwoman Mary Cheh, D-Ward 3, said Friday on WAMU's Politics Hour.
Cheh chairs the council's transportation committee. On the streetcar, she said, the council and mayor are "in a state now of trying to reassess, and I don't think we've come to any firm conclusions."
Considering the District's struggles to get the initial H Street NE line going, the painful delays, the fires and crashes during testing, and the council's decision last spring to drastically cut the funding for streetcar expansion, Cheh's comments may not come off as shocking.
But given the sheer volume of economic development that has delivered on H Street — and much more still to come — that is at least partly based on the promise of a working streetcar, and the expectation that the streetcar would be a key draw to the corridor and major revenue generator, Cheh's statement has got to be a reality-check punch to the gut.
Here's the good news: The $35 million H Street reconstruction project that laid the initial tracks for the 2.2 mile H Street/Benning line was completed in 2011. In the four years since, the corridor has boomed, with work starting on, among many other projects, Insight Property Group's Whole Foods-anchored Apollo at 600 H St. NE, Jair Lynch Development Partners' mixed-use 625 H, Capital City Real Estate's 30-unit 301 H.
If the streetcar doesn't happen, H Street will not wither and die. It may even be safer. But a leading driver behind its resurgence will be missing. And that's too bad.