We went for a stroll this morning, in lovely Capitol Hill. And to my complete delight, we discovered a wonderful surprise just blocks from our house. Take a look.
Yes, folks, those are rails for the DC streetcar. They are sitting quietly on a prepared bed, next to a slab that will extend the width of the sidewalk on this side of the street. This view is from 7th and H Streets NE, looking west. It’s only rails, and construction of this part of the system will no doubt take a very long time. But hope springs eternal….
H Street has been torn up for months as the City undertakes an array of improvements in the infrastructure, set to culminate in a new and lovely streetscape. (Full disclosure: the streetscape plan was designed by two good friends and colleagues).
The H Street corridor has seen much redevelopment in the last couple of years. Much of the street looks like this today:
Photo from flickr.
Lots of board-ups, and even some vacant lots. H Street was once a booming retail strip, but the street was heavily damaged during the riots of ’68. And now the businesses that are there are being augmented by new development, and the street bustles most hours of the day. The building at the far left of this image, for example, is now open and operating, upstairs and down – progress is clear on every block. Perhaps once the streetcar is running here again, the tempo of redevelopment will increase. We’ll see – it could be a long time before there really is new transit on this street.
The City has been debating and arguing over streetcars for years. Most of the discussion has been pretty foolish – a lot of folks arguing instead for more highways, parking lots, and endless increases in the further destruction of the city by cars. This in a city rated as one of the worst in the nation for traffic and congestion. Perhaps now that the car age begins to wane, this incomprehensible auto-fetish will ebb as well.
Anyway, somehow a reduced compromise version of the proposed streetcar system made it past all the whiners and morons and into the City’s Comprehensive Plan. And so this morning, we see the fact that, unbelievably, there will at least be tracks. Take another look.
A sight for sore eyes.