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$190 MILLION In The Hole, DC Streetcar Project May Be Abandoned

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Having spent over $190 million on the project already, the District of Columbia may have to give up on plans to bring streetcars back to the nation’s capital.

WTOP reported on Monday that the acting director of the District’s Department of Transportation, Leif Dormsjo, “told the D.C. Council on Friday that the project may be scrapped entirely,” though he also asserted that, “he still expects to fix the project rather than abandon it.”

Approximately 10 years into the project, the streetcar has encountered numerous delays and safety concerns. So far, only one 2.2-mile stretch of track has been laid.

“This project over 10 years was developed in an unprofessional, haphazard, contradictory, and inconsistent manner,” Dormsjo explained. (RELATED: Milwaukee Streetcar will Benefit Developers at Taxpayers’ Expense)

The future of the D.C. streetcar, according to American University Radio, will likely hinge on the findings of a weeklong peer review by the American Public Transportation Association, set to begin on Monday.

Among the study’s primary focuses will be safety, the article says, noting that, “the streetcars have been involved in a number of minor fender-benders and have sideswiped some vehicles parked too far from the curb” during test runs.

“That reality was underscored on an icy Saturday last month,” the Washington Post claims, when a single streetcar was involved in three incidents in a single evening.

First, the streetcar “smacked into a car mirror,” and then, a few hours later, “slammed into a poorly parked Audi, damaging both vehicles.” To cap it all off, “a section of the streetcar’s roof erupted in a small fireball” just before midnight, in what DDOT referred to as a “flash fire.”

“The reliability of the vehicles and the supporting systems is a very knowable and measurable element,” Dormsjo told American University, adding that, “We are going to have a very objective measurement of whether this project moves forward as it was originally conceived or whether we are going to take it a different course.”

Earlier this month, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser announced that she was “considering canceling funding for future lines and extensions,” but Dormsjo indicated on Friday that the already-built portion of the line could be on the chopping block, as well. (RELATED: Hell Freezes Over: DC Passes Tax Reform)

“If there were fatal flaws in what has already been done; if there were increased costs that hadn’t been adequately identified; if there were risks I was able to quantify with the help of internal forces and APTA, that led me to a recommendation that we not move forward at all, I would make that recommendation,” Dormsjo told council members.

He hastened to add, though, that, “I am not making that recommendation today.” (RELATED: A Streetcar Named Desire Taxpayer Dollars)

Dormsjo told the council that he expects the APTA review to determine the feasibility of continuing the project, saying, “I think they’ll be able to tell me whether there’s a pathway to passenger service.”

“Given how far along we are, it would be concerning if they said they didn’t know,” he added.

“I don’t want to get it wrong. I don’t want to be the guy who quit early and threw in the towel and couldn’t get the job done,” Dormsjo said, but at the same time, “Nor do I want to be the guy who got swept up in the emotional crusade to open something, and I opened it and it turned out to be a miserable failure.”

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