By Denise Barnes
THE WASHINGTON TIMES
Published November 14, 2004
D.C. officials broke ground yesterday for Anacostia Light Rail, a
$55-million streetcar system that will make it easier for Southeast
residents to travel and may stimulate the community's economy.
Wielding shovels across the street from the Anacostia Metro station at
the site of what will be the Anacostia light rail station -- one of six
stops on the line -- Mayor Anthony A. Williams, Metro General Manager
Richard White and other officials hailed the new beginning. "It's a great
day for the neighborhood," said Dan Tangherlini, director of the D.C.
Department of Transportation. "After a 42-year hiatus, we return streetcars
to the city, and we will begin the process of reconnecting our
The initial Anacostia Light Rail line, budgeted at $50 milllion to $60
million, will run for 2.7 miles along the right of way of the existing CSX
Shepard Branch industrial spur -- from Pennsylvania Avenue, south of the
John Phillip Sousa Bridge, to Bolling Air Force Base. Officials hope its six
stops will open by fall 2006. Mr. Tangherlini said the expectation is that
Bolling employees will use the system to commute and to leave the base to
shop in the community.
"We feel the way to revitalize a community is to give [people] access to
opportunity -- opportunity for jobs, opportunity for recreation, opportunity
[to attend] cultural and religious events," Mr. Tangherlini said. "I
consider this a renaissance. People have been very patient, and they are
getting their due."
The streetcars will run above ground in groups of three cars, each
holding about 30 passengers. Officials said seats will be arranged around
the inside of the cars, providing ample standing room. The color of the
cars has yet to be determined, but Mr. Tangherlini said officials were
"leaning toward red or green."
The cars will be like those now used in Portland, Ore., and Tacoma, Wash.
The Metro system's Board of Directors has approved spending $16.1 million
for land, site preparation and cars. However, the District will pay for the
project with money left over from Metro projects, money created by Metro
economic development projects and other capital funds, Mr. Tangherlini said.
He said the city is interested in Metro running the line, but no agreement
has been reached.
Streetcars were a fixture in the District from 1871 until 1962, but the
city officially retired the last familiar green-and-ivory cars after
Congress voted to replace them with a fleet of diesel buses. Navy Capt.
Carol Schmidt, stationed at the Washington Navy Yard/Anacostia, said she is
thrilled by the idea of a new transit line. "I think this will help ease
some of the parking issues," she said. "It's more obvious at the Navy Yard.
I applaud any effort that helps to ease the traffic problems."
Presiding over the groundbreaking ceremony, Gladys W. Mack, a Metro board
member, said the economic growth sweeping across downtown also must come to
Anacostia. She said the proposed baseball stadium along the Anacostia
waterfront and the new pedestrian bridge would stimulate economic
revitalization. "Suddenly everyone [will] rediscover the Anacostia River,"
Mrs. Mack said. Mr. Williams said light rail meets several needs, from
helping residents move around the city to economic development to connecting
residents of Barry Farms to jobs.
"Our vision is to expand the light rail to the new baseball stadium, and
I've always said the stadium was about more than baseball," the mayor said.
"I think the light rail will help a lot in our community," said Dorothea
Ferrell, a member of Advisory Neighborhood Commission 8C01. "It's definitely
a connector and something in which all ages can get involved, from youth to
seniors, because we all need transportation."
Ms. Ferrell said she and other residents attended many meetings to get a
Barry Farms stop on the line. "We were isolated until Metro [opened], and
now we have the opportunity to carry our children around [the city] to let
them know about other areas of the District," she said. She was less
enthusiastic about building a baseball stadium on the Anacostia Waterfront.
"I care about residents located in that area and how they will make it,
where they will be shifted," she said. "They are humans, and they have a
right to be a part of D.C. and not Maryland or Virginia."