D.C. seeks to lift ban on overhead wires
D.C. Council members introduced a bill Tuesday that would lift a long federal ban on overhead electrical wires along H Street NE.
The bill, drafted by council member Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6), and signed by 12 of 13 members, would repeal laws Congress passed in 1888 and 1889 banning overhead electrification in Georgetown and the area bounded by the Potomac and Anacostia waterfronts north to Florida Avenue.
The legislation would exempt the the H Street-Benning Road corridor, where the city is now laying tracks for streetcar service. Other historic neighborhoods in the city’s planned 37-mile streetcar network would still be required to have cars draw electricity from buried batteries or power strips.
The bill opens the door to overhead power on large swaths of the streetcar system once Mayor Adrian M. Fenty develops a citywide plan by 2014 that will determine which views are worth saving and which aren’t.
Local preservation groups, including the National Capital Planning Commission and the National Park Service, are on record opposing any overhead wires as visual clutter.
But city transportation officials, along with Wells and other council members, say wireless technology is costly and untested in most American cities.
The only council member not backing the bill is Phil Mendelson (D-At Large), who has been skeptical of the city’s investment in the streetcar project.
The streetcar program, a Fenty priority, was nearly axed by Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray last week to help close a city budget gap. An outcry from advocates prompted Gray to restore a proposed $50 million cut.
— Lisa Rein
Washington Post editors
| June 1, 2010; 5:15 PM ET
Tags: d.c. council, streetcars, tommy wells
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