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Councilmembers Vincent Gray, Marion Barry, Kwame Brown
Letter to Mayor Anthony Williams opposing use of dedicated Streetcar Initiative fund for ballpark infrastructure improvements
January 3, 2006




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Council of the District of Columbia
The John A. Wilson Building
1350 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20004

January 3, 2006

Mayor Anthony Williams
Office of the Mayor for the District of Columbia
John A. Wilson Building
1350 Pennsylvania Ave., N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20004

Dear Mayor Williams:

We write to express our opposition to any plan to use funds dedicated to the Streetcar Initiative for the upgrade of the Navy Yard metro station, part of the infrastructure improvements for the baseball stadium. It is out understanding that there is $21 million in the Metro Fund established for several projects, $10 million of which is dedicated to the design of the Streetcar Initiative. A reallocation of these funds will effectively eliminate this intiative.

The District's proposal to begin its Streetcar Initiative East of the River is of great significance, as the communities of Ward 7 and 8 rarely, if ever, are given priority in citywide projects. We are particularly excited about the Streetcar Initiative because the city's previous efforts to bring a similar transit system East of the River were not realized. As you know, last year the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) planned another alternative rail system East of the River -- a 2.7-mile light rail line from the foot of the Sousa Bridge at Pennsylvania Avenue, S.E. to Bolling Air Force Base along the unused CSX rail track. However, after months of public hearings, community meetings, and even a groundbreaking ceremony, the deal between the District and CSX fell through.

As a result DDOT planners, including DDOT Director Dan Tangherlini, began developing a plan for a neighborhood-based streetcar system, with the first segment beginning East of the River. Director Tangherlini and Councilmember Vincent C. Gray (Ward 7) and Marion Barry (Ward 8) traveled to Portland, Oregon to learn about the streetcar system and the community's support of it. Not only were the streetcars pleasant and convenient to ride, but also a welcomed addition to the Portland transportation system. Shortly thereafter, Councilmembers Gray and Barry convened a citizen advisory committee to address issues of concern to the residents with Director Tangherlini. Some members of the advisory committee, which includes eight residents from Ward 7 and eight residents from Ward 8, also visited Portland to see the operation of the streetcar system.

As with any major development plan, support for the streetcar system is not unanimous. Some residents have raised concerns, for example, regarding traffic gridlock resulting from the stopping and starting of streetcars in one-lane thoroughfares, but dialogue to date has provided an opportunity to discuss these matters and refine approaches.

Portland's streetcar system is impressive. The streetcars provide a very smooth and enjoyable ride, and are very accessible to individuals with disabilities or mobility challenges. A streetcar system in the District has the potential to improve the connectivity of neighborhoods and spur economic development as has occurred in a very dramatic way in Portland.

Because of the time and money already invested in improving transportation technology in the city beginning with East of the River communities, it greatly concerns us that there may be consideration of using funds already dedicated to the Streetcar project to upgrade the Navy Yard metro station. We respectfully request that any such proposal be reconsidered, as we would be greatly disappointed at the District's inability to follow through with yet a second plan to modernize transportation in East of the River communities.

All of us are available to discuss this important matter with you. Please contact Dawn Slonneger, Chief of Staff to Councilmember Vincent C. Gray, to schedule a mutually convenient time. Ms. Slonneger can be reached at (202) 724-8145. Thank you in advance for your prompt attention to this matter.

Vincent C. Gray, Councilmember, Ward 7
Marion Barry, Councilmember, Ward 8
Kwame Brown, Councilmember, At-Large

cc: Richard White, General Manager/CEO
Dana Kaufman, Chairman
Councilmember Jim Graham

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