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D.C. Council may find streetcar funds

(District Department of Transportation)

3 p.m. Update: Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray (D) will announce in a few minutes that the city has found enough money to restore the street car program that was poised to be stripped of $49 million to help balance the budget and help fund other projects.

-- Nikita Stewart

Noon Update: The District purchased three streetcars for $10 million more than three years ago for a future streetcar network and is storing them at Metro's Greenbelt rail yard. The cars were kept for several years in the Czech Republic, where they were made.

Earlier this month, the District held a "streetcar showcase " on the site of the old Washington Convention Center in Northwest Washington and invented the public to tour one of the streetcars.

Metro had been scheduled to consider purchasing six additional street cars for the District during a meeting Thursday of its board of directors. The purchase was being made on behalf of the District, and Metro would not incur any cost. It was unclear Wednesday afternoon how the council's decision would affect the Metro action.

Original post: 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.

-- Nikita Stewart and Mike DeBonis

By Michael Bolden  |  May 26, 2010; 11:52 AM ET
Categories:  Transportation Politics  
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I do notice that the blogs reporting on this today all finger Vincent Gray as the knife wielding culprit cutting out funds at 2am. Most of them even put him in the headline. But in The Post's short write-up here, he doesn't get a mention, just "the D.C. Council". The streetcars are a big crowd-pleaser, and if this anti-transport image sticks to Gray, it could be a real dent in his campaign.

Posted by: patrickneil | May 26, 2010 12:14 PM | Report abuse

Gray's mayoral campaign is done. Which leaves us with feckless Fenty. What a shame.

Posted by: anarcho-liberal-tarian | May 26, 2010 12:16 PM | Report abuse

So the cars have been sitting in the Metro lot for how long? and sat in the Czech how much longer before that??!? any idea if they even still work properly?

Another example of how good ideas turn into bad ones....what sense does it make to start such a large project if the funds aren't fully secured. It just doesn't make sense to start something so large scale and not be able to pay for it.

Posted by: Pat_E | May 26, 2010 12:24 PM | Report abuse

It's impossible to cut programs without catching any flak. Kudos to the DC Council for making this difficult decision.

Posted by: afsljafweljkjlfe | May 26, 2010 12:29 PM | Report abuse

this is great news. street cars would be a giant waste of money. why spend $$$$ so three people can ride the street cars?

Posted by: brandonssherman | May 26, 2010 12:44 PM | Report abuse

Gray just lost the mayor's race, and any attempt to claim "transparency."

Any statements about how we will build 'one city' (or avoid a return to his days in the Barry administration) in the future will be forever lost in his actions of the last 12 hours.

In one move, Gray delivered the race to Fenty and set his retirement to the suburbs in action.

Posted by: Graycloudrisingnosilverlining | May 26, 2010 1:19 PM | Report abuse

As someone who lives in Ward 6, I am infuriated by this outrageous and stupid decision. Gray is toast.

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

A stupid move, even by DC standards. You can't build a molehill in this town. Looks like the only thing that can get built without some obstructionist getting in the way is a bicycle lane.

Posted by: ceefer66 | May 26, 2010 2:22 PM | Report abuse

When is the Post going to mention that Gray moved the money to fund parks in impoverished Georgetown? Those of you who think he is saving money from being "wasted" missed two key points: He says he is still "firmly committed" to the project and just wants to spend years, and millions of $$ studying it more, and also you probably live nowhere near the proposed lines.

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

So now who do I vote for -- the guy who killed the soccer stadium, or the guy who killed the streetcars?

Posted by: 20009matt | May 26, 2010 2:56 PM | Report abuse

I guess it truly is impossible for a Democrat to cut spending. Better raise taxes!

Beverage Tax, anyone?

Posted by: afsljafweljkjlfe | May 26, 2010 3:08 PM | Report abuse

So why isn't this in Breaking News on your front page? I can find out about the oil leak on dozens other websites. The Post is failing as a home newspaper.

Posted by: busgirl1 | May 26, 2010 3:10 PM | Report abuse

I never understood why they rushed to buy the streetcars when they weren't going to use them for so many years anyway.

Posted by: 1995hoo | May 26, 2010 3:24 PM | Report abuse

It's amazing how this government can declare "too broke to proceed" and then "find" funding on the same day. Is this the same slight of hand that removed/restored/removed funding for the DCPS teacher raises?

Posted by: logosdesigns | May 26, 2010 3:38 PM | Report abuse

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