• DC Says Streetcar Will Be ready Soon … For The Seventh Time

    Workers in the District of Columbia broke ground on the Streetcar project in 2004, and since then the city spent more than $200 million on faulty streetcars and mislaid tracks, yet not a single passenger has ridden in one of the cars.

    During that time period, local government officials have said the Streetcar would be ‘operational soon’ at least seven different times, a new promise coming with each passed deadline. The most recent promise came from District Department of Transportation Director Leif Dormsjo, who told The Washington Post the Streetcar system should be running by January 2016.

    “I think we are on track to be wrapped up here by the end of the year. There’s been a lot of improvement,” Dormsjo told the paper. “But at the end of the day, the only thing that counts is getting the system open safely and responsibly, and that’s really our guiding mission right now.”

    The first promise came in 2009, when a District Department of Transportation (DDOT) spokeswoman said the line would be “running in 2012.”

    Dormsjo’s newfound optimism about the beleaguered Streetcar line is in stark contrast to comments he made in March, when he told the D.C. Council he wasn’t even sure if the project would ever come to fruition.

    At the time, he said it would be premature to determine what the capabilities of the Streetcar could be, and said the agency would “determine the future of streetcars based on facts.”

    The facts seem to have changed, as Dormsjo told the Post the “facts on the ground” will determine when the Streetcar will open, or if more delays will occur, but reiterated that the trains are in the “home stretch” of the safety testing that needs to be done before the trains carry passengers.

    Safety issues have been a major factor in the delayed opening of the Streetcar line, ranging from crosswalks without pedestrian signals to one streetcar that actually caught on fire.

    The American Public Transportation Association released a report in July detailing 30 issues that would need to be fixed before the streetcar could carry passengers. Chief among them, breaks in the Streetcar rail that could lead to potential derailment and on-board radio systems that did not work.

    Between the first promise of a functioning streetcar in 2009 and the most recent prediction, district officials from four different mayoral administrations announced anticipated launch dates, none of which came true.

    The non-working Streetcar system has become a point of contention in the city between residents and city officials. So much so, that in January, after another deadline came and went, they just stopped making predictions about when it would open.

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