The next phase of the D.C. streetcar — known as the Benning Road Reconstruction and Streetcar Project — is supported by Ward 7 residents as long as they’re involved in the planning.
“Ward 7 residents cannot be afraid of economic development,” Kelvin Brown, an advisory neighborhood commissioner who represents district 7B06, said recently. “The streetcar project is part of that investment in the community. What has to happen is the neighborhood affected by the streetcar is part of the process in its planning and implementation.”
The Benning Road streetcar project, at an estimated cost of $178.1 million, starts in Ward 5 at Oklahoma Avenue, N.E. and is to proceed about 2.6 miles east until it provides walking access to the Benning Road Metro Station. The project, which started its planning stages in 2010, will start construction in the winter of 2022, D.C. Department of Transportation officials (DDOT) say.
DDOT officials told a March 23 virtual meeting of community leaders the project should be completed by either 2025 or 2026.
For many years, residents and businesses along Benning Road have complained about traffic along the streetcar route. However, those who live along the streetcar route said the District government has paid little attention to what they want in the project.
DDOT officials have said the Benning streetcar project will aid the service area by getting people out of their cars and into public transportation conserving the environment and helping to alleviate traffic concerns.
Everett Lott, the interim director of DDOT, said in an email to the Informer that throughout the history of the Benning Road streetcar project, community engagement has taken place.
“Since the project planning began in 2010, DDOT has engaged with the public extensively through major project-specific community meetings and studies, as well as outreach through broader initiatives such as MoveDC, the District’s long-range multimodal transportation plan,” Lott said. “DDOT will continue to engage with the community throughout the planning and construction process.”
Tyrell Holcomb, the chairman of the 7F advisory neighborhood commission, supports the project, saying it will “link the East End of the city to downtown” but has long wanted to know why it ends at the Benning Road station instead of the intersection of Benning Road and Minnesota Avenue.
In response, Lott said a feasibility study published by DDOT in 2013 determined the Benning Road Metro Station served as a better terminus point than the Minnesota Avenue Metro Station.
Both Holcomb and Brown have expressed concerns about the traffic snarls and delays the project could produce.
“It would seem that when DDOT was working on the renovations of the Whitney Young Bridge, the surrounding neighborhoods were given alternative routes to use but we have not had the same response,” Holcomb said.
While Brown shares Holcomb’s immediate concerns about traffic, he said the big picture for the area should be viewed.
“I think about transportation from an approach of safety and equity,” he said. “The streetcar could definitely improve the economic prospects of the area and improve the quality of life in our neighborhoods even though its construction and traffic will be inconvenient for a few years.”