Streetcar service will not begin in 2014

WASHINGTON — After a last-minute push from the District Department of Transportation to get the streetcar to begin on New Year’s Eve, multiple sources confirm that service will not begin on Wednesday.

On Tuesday, sources told NBC Washington that Mayor Vince Gray was hoping to announce a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Wednesday.  Also, there were emergency no parking signs posted in the corridor for a special event on Wednesday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

However, as the day went on, multiple sources close to the project told WTOP they had not received any invitation for a ribbon cutting and could not attend any such event.

Later in the day, Gray and Mayor-Elect Muriel Bowser released public schedules without any events on the calendar for New Year’s Eve.

Sources privately say that there is some pressure from the Gray administration to either have a ribbon-cutting or have service begin before he leaves office Friday.

On Wednesday, Mayor Gray released a statement saying the streetcar is close to carrying passengers.

“While we won’t meet our goal of opening in 2014, the good news is that the DC Streetcar system is in the final stages of safety and security certification and will be open for passenger service early in the New Year,” he said in the statement. “We continue to work side by side, day and night, with State Safety Oversight (SSO) in order to ready the system for passengers.”

Three weeks ago, DDOT Director Matt Brown told reporters that there was still a path to begin service before the end of the year.  He said that final brake tests would be necessary, then DDOT would need a final approval from State Safety Oversight Program through DC Fire and EMS.

The two groups were in close communication during the day, but ultimately no approval was given to begin service.

Streetcar service has been plagued with delays for years.  Mayor Gray and DDOT leaders expected service to begin before the end of 2013.  Then, DDOT insisted it would open in late 2014.  Now it’ll launch in 2015.

The delays were one reason that the City Council gutted streetcar funding over the summer.  Bowser voted for those budget cuts to streetcar.

Riders will not have to pay a fare when service begins.  The streetcars do not have fare payment systems installed yet.

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