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Council votes to strip funds for streetcars

The D.C. Council Wednesday approved stripping funds designated to bring streetcar service back to the city in an effort to close a $550 million budget gap.

The vote effectively delays the launch of the streetcars. The council still must vote on the change when it votes on the full budget later today.

The council voted to take $49 million for street car system and distribute it among other projects.

Gabe Klein, director of the District Department of Transportation, was lobbying furiously to save the funds from being redistributed.

"It will essentially kill the program," he said. "If they kill it, basically, it goes on ice."

The District has already put down the first miles of track for the planned 37-mile streetcar network, estimated to cost $1.5 billion to complete.

Pro-street car activists are furious and blame Sarah Campbell, capital budget director for the council, who is also a member of the Committee of 100 on the Federal City. The group has been opposed to the street car plan, particularly raising overhead wires in historically protected areas of the city.

Campbell Wednesday denied any personal motive, saying she is not opposed to overhead wires. But she raised questions about the transportation department's funding scheme. "It's not about me. It's about the funding commitments," she said, referring to other long-planned projects in the city's pipeline that remain unfunded.

The changes, she said, do not eliminate the program but delay it.

By Washington Post editors  |  May 26, 2010; 12:01 PM ET
Categories:  Budget , D.C. Council , Mike DeBonis , Nikita Stewart  | Tags: d.c. council, street cars  
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I'm glad the $$ was stripped. The streetcars are just another silly project of the anti-car yuppie crowd headed by WABA and Gabe Klein that was determined to waste money on their pet projects to the detriment of other, much more deserving needs (like shools!). These yuppies need to move to MoCo or Alexandria.

Posted by: WashingtonDame | May 26, 2010 12:46 PM | Report abuse

"Yuppies" are not the only ones who use public transportation. Which other programs is the money going to? Condoms?

Posted by: jckdoors | May 26, 2010 12:51 PM | Report abuse

I'm all for public funding for condoms.

Posted by: Daffodil123 | May 26, 2010 1:21 PM | Report abuse

This project was doomed to fail years ago. The city is in a half a billion dollar a year hole and our reserve fund has dropped by a billion dollars over the past 4 years as DC continued to foolishly spend money on things like this.

DDOT spent ~100 million dollars building something before they figured out how they were going to power it, how much it was going to cost (1.5 billion in 2008 dollars supposedly) and how they were going to pay for the yearly O&M.

Considering Gabe Klein spent a million dollars rushing bike lanes to PA Avenue that are now indefinitely closed because no one ran out there with a tape measure before installing them, do you really want this rube in charge of a 1.5 billion (min) program he has zero experience with, especially when the city is dead broke as it is?

Posted by: Nosh1 | May 26, 2010 1:22 PM | Report abuse

Appallingly stupid decision, even by D.C. standards.

Posted by: flamingcissy | May 26, 2010 1:38 PM | Report abuse

Absolutely positively shortsighted, pigheaded and just plain stupid. Appalling, in fact.

Posted by: thenoggin | May 26, 2010 1:42 PM | Report abuse

The citizen's of the District of Columbia will not see the money no matter what they do with it, so what does it matter?

Posted by: onesugar | May 26, 2010 2:15 PM | Report abuse

I'm disappointed that the streetcars will be delayed. They would have revitalized the H Street NE corridor. They become their own tourist attraction in the cities that have them, in addition to providing needed mass transit, and in the case of H Street, a tie in to the Metro. And as far as ruining the views, streetcars enhance a cityscape. Keep building 'em. Boo!

Posted by: aguy7 | May 26, 2010 2:15 PM | Report abuse


Posted by: ceefer66 | May 26, 2010 2:16 PM | Report abuse

I just drove in from Southeast and saw all the tracks. I wondered how the trains were powered, no overhead wire poles. Would have been nice if the council hadn't wasted money putting in the tracks, then cancel it.

Posted by: CityCommuter | May 26, 2010 2:22 PM | Report abuse

Yes, as these comments indicate, the citizen's of the District of Columbia need more funding for shools.

Posted by: toms7 | May 26, 2010 2:30 PM | Report abuse

Vince Gray just lost a vote and Fenty just gained an ally who will tell anyone who will listen what an idiot Gray is.

Posted by: mullenta | May 26, 2010 2:37 PM | Report abuse

Gabe Klein is a midget.

Posted by: Ward4DC | May 26, 2010 2:47 PM | Report abuse

Why do I lived in this stupid @$$ city? Spend money to buy street cars, install tracks and then strip the funding - awesome!! Until DC voters wake up and replace the current "leaders" the council and the mayor will be nothing but a bunch of stoogies and cronies seeking what is best for them instead of what is best for DC (like creating jobs and improving parts of the city that have been neglected for 42 years.

Posted by: Shiba-fussa | May 26, 2010 3:10 PM | Report abuse

"They become their own tourist attraction in the cities that have them"

Yeah right...People end up not riding them the only places they are tourist attractions is where they are old like in San Francisco other than that they won't be a tourist attraction.

How about spending the money on improving the Metro.

Posted by: Jrad | May 26, 2010 3:36 PM | Report abuse

Maybe I'm showing my ignorance here, but how does this work if they vote to now delay the project? Do they cover up the tracks they already put down and repave the road? Or leave H Street as the total disaster that it currently is? For those of us who live around there, I hate to think we've gone through all of this construction and terrible road conditions for nothing!

Posted by: cali_transplant | May 26, 2010 4:08 PM | Report abuse

It is not shortsighted to defund a streetcar to nowhere during a severe recession. It is called being fiscally conservative. THAT is what smart leaders do, make necessary decisions, irrespective to the popularity of them.

Posted by: concernedaboutdc | May 26, 2010 5:15 PM | Report abuse

Smart leaders don't let Sarah Campbell hijack streetcars. And fiscal conservatives don't endorse million-dollar investments, then try to kill them at the last minute, then put them back in again.

When Gray takes a position, no one should believe him.

Gray once said of streetcars, "These opportunities, especially those that connect the city, help chip away with the geographical and psychological isolation that residents east of the river feel," Gray said. "It also sends a message that the areas that have been neglected are now becoming a priority."

Thank goodness Gray lacks the backbone to endure the criticism he would have received for killing the streetcar investment today.

Posted by: hungrypug | May 26, 2010 11:00 PM | Report abuse

Gray for Mayor...Give the city back to the majority and NOT the segment of young, white, racist, homosexual males.

Posted by: concernedaboutdc | May 27, 2010 6:07 AM | Report abuse

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