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Future of D.C. streetcar remains in limbo

More hiccups could delay the D.C. streetcar again. (WTOP/Ari Ashe)

WASHINGTON — It cost $200 million. It’s delayed. And it might never pick up a paying passenger.

Last week, D.C.’s transportation chief indicated the oft-troubled D.C. streetcar could be mothballed.

District leaders, on Monday, further addressed the problems that have plagued the streetcar, saying its future is in question, but that it is not headed for the gallows just yet.

“The streetcar program was organized somewhat backward,” says Leif Dormsjo, head of the District Department of Transportation.

He says previous leaders acquired vehicles and installed the track before the system was adequately designed. Now, the question concerns how fixable those issues are.

Dormsjo has brought in an outside team of light rail experts to determine whether the project can be saved. His hope is 45 days after the visit, the team will produce an analysis that will shape the decision District leaders have to make.

At an unrelated news conference Monday, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser reaffirmed her support for streetcars generally. But she raised doubts about the project running along the H Street Corridor.

“What I don’t support is a system that doesn’t go all the places that it should, that isn’t safe or doesn’t work,” she says.

Bowser says she doesn’t think the District is in a position to shut down the project yet. Still, she would hesitate pulling the plug, regardless of how much money has been sunk into it.

“If I had to tell the taxpayers that I inherited a system that’s not safe, then that would be my job to tell them that,” she says.

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