WASHINGTON – As the District of Columbia prepares for the beginning of streetcar service, work is going on over the next few weeks up and down the H Street-Benning Road NE corridor to make sure the cars are ready for passengers.
On Wednesday, one of four streetcars was taken up and down the Hopscotch Bridge near Union Station. On Thursday, the car will be moved to the Benning Road area near Oklahoma Avenue NE on the eastern end of the line.
“There are four components to the testing that have to be done by the various entities before we go into revenue streetcar service. We are in the first phase,” says Tom McFall, design-building manager at Dean-Facchina, which is working with streetcar testing.
The testing on Wednesday at the Hopscotch Bridge examined the streetcar on the inclines and declines to make sure there aren’t safety hazards.
“We want to make sure the streetcar is coming down off of the hill safely and is able to maneuver itself through the turnouts in a safe manner and it does it without any kind of slipping and sliding down the incline,” says McFall.
“The breaking system on the streetcars is a bit different than an ABS [automatic braking system]. But they want to make sure that they can stop when they need to stop.”
On Thursday, crews will hook up the streetcar to a trailer at 24th Street NE, then manually pull it down the tracks to test the overhead wires. Once that’s complete, the streetcar will be powered up and take a couple trips up and down the track as well.
“You’re probably going to see another push here over the next couple weeks, then you might see a dropout while we wrap up a few things we need to take care of,” says McFall.
Four cars have been delivered to the D.C. Department of Transportation out of six, with the rest expected to arrive soon. Only one car is being tested currently, but each streetcar being used for passenger service must be tested and certified before it takes passengers.
DDOT hopes that streetcar service will begin before the end of March, although the weather has delayed certain tests and could push the completion date farther into the spring.