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Officials look at new ways to power DC streetcars

FILE -- A 2016 file photo of the D.C. streetcar. (WTOP/Sarah Beth Hensley)

WASHINGTON — As the District considers extending its streetcar system from Union Station to Georgetown, city planners are also looking at new ways to power the cars.

Streetcars running on the H Street/Benning Road Line get their power from overhead wires, but for the proposed extension, DDOT project manager Jamie Henson says they’re looking at different options.

“We’ve talked a lot about propulsion, and advancing a propulsion approach that will limit visual intrusions,” Henson said.

Henson says “on-wire” systems are reliable and cost-effective, but the wires aren’t so pretty.

On the other end of the spectrum, entirely “off-wire” streetcars are more visually pleasing, but not as reliable and can be expensive.

So, DDOT is focused on a choice that’s in between.

“What we’re advancing at this point is a hybrid approach that looks at batteries and super capacitors with recharging at station stops,” Henson said.

“We think that this can be a solution that gets away from wires, that has minimal impacts to the visual quality of the District, and has enough reliability so that we can be confident that the vehicles won’t lose charge.”

See more renderings can be seen on the Union Station to Georgetown website.

The next public meeting on the plan will likely happen this fall.

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