FILE PHOTO: DANIEL SMITH/THE HOYA The H Street-Benning Road NE streetcar project has been delayed again after safety testing revealed the potential for dangerous collisions.
FILE PHOTO: DANIEL SMITH/THE HOYA
The H Street-Benning Road NE streetcar project has been delayed again after safety testing revealed the potential for dangerous collisions.

The start date for the H Street-Benning Road NE streetcar has been delayed again due to the safety issues that have been plaguing the streetcar project since it began testing in September.

Former Mayor Vincent Gray intended to have the streetcars fully operational at the end of his mayoral term. When the testing began in September, the D.C. Department of Transportation estimated that the service would begin operation by the end of 2014.

However, the streetcar simulation service was involved in eight collisions throughout the testing process.
The most recent of these incidents involved a minor collision with a motorist on Jan. 7. Though the D.C. Department of Transportation cited the vehicle’s close proximity to the streetcar as the reason for the accident, incidents such as these have raised concerns about the streetcar service’s compliance with federal safety and security requirements. The unwieldy streetcars run only on rails installed in the street, preventing them from changing lanes or stopping quickly in response to traffic.

The project was delayed with a planned opening on Jan.19. However, the streetcar was indefinitely delayed again, with no firm rescheduled date. DDOT did not respond to several requests for comment on the most recent delay.

Construction on the corridor began in 2012, and the city hoped to open the service by summer 2013. In the course of the oft-delayed project, DDOT limited cycling and eliminated parking spaces along the busy H Street corridor.

District of Columbia Fire and Emergency Medical Services director of communications Timothy Wilson said that the State Safety Oversight Office, despite the fact that it operates independently within the department, needs to comply with federal safety regulations.

“[The mission of the SSOO] is to ensure compliance with federal safety requirement. … It is their practice to perform a comprehensive examination with regard to safety and security of the streetcar program,” Wilson said.

Wilson added that the streetcar program must be safe in order to fulfill the needs of D.C. passengers.

“The goal to have a light rail system that is suitable for the transportation needs of residents and visitors is within reach. Mayor Bowser has said that D.C. streetcar will open once it is in compliance with all federal safety and security requirements. Until then, testing will continue,” Wilson said.

Hoya Staff Writer Kristen Fedor contributed reporting.

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