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Contractors Consider Options for Deteriorated Streetcar Tracks

One of the O and P Street Project's goals is to maintain the historic integrity of the existing streetcar tracks as the roads are repaved.

Completely destroyed or severely deteriorated streetcar rails are giving the contractors behind the O and P Street project something to ponder. The team must come up with new, historically accurate rails to replace center rails that have been exposed to the elements in the streets of Georgetown.

As the streetcar tracks began to come out of the ground in October, the contractors quickly discovered that most of the center rails were grossly worn away. The center rails, which once served as the electrical conduit for the city-wide streetcar system, had been exposed to the elements because of a drainage channel for the electrical system.

The future is uncertain. Four blocks of tracks have been dug up, another four remain, though only one and a half of those have any center rails left to speak of. The other two and a half have completely eroded with age and exposure. The side rails were less impacted because they were sealed in concrete, without a drainage channel.

At the most recent Advisory Neighborhood Commission meetings, Commissioner Jeff Jones told the community that the project was facing a setback because of the poor quality of the streetcar tracks. But Dara Ward, a spokesperson for the O and P Street Project told Patch, "We don't really see this as a set back. We’re not experiencing any delays."

As part of the project to upgrade the street, the project team was tasked with maintaining the "structural integrity" of the historic streetcars. Ward said as they exist, the center rails would compromise the integrity and safety of the street, an unacceptable risk.

The rails came out of the ground "pretty deteriorated" and in some cases, "beyond rehabilitation," according to Ward. Because of the unique nature of the streetcar system in D.C., finding historically similar replacement parts is nearly impossible. The contractor is working with the project team to determine the best way to replicate what once existed.

Ward said the process of removing the remaining rails from the street affords the project time to come up with a solution to the lost rails, so at this point she does not foresee any delays.

In terms of costs, the team does not expect any additional work to drastically impact the $12.3 million project. The cost will be "fairly negligible," said Ward. "We’re not talking millions of dollars. It’s not going to be a big issue." In the end she said it could mean a two or three percent increase in the budget.

Should the creation of new, historically accurate center rails set the project back, Ward said her team would "absolutely communicate that to the community."

Laura L Thornton (Editor) January 19, 2012 at 04:30 PM
Thanks for the update. I like the rails being there to remind us of the neighborhood's history, but I have always worried about getting a flat tire, since the rails looked a bit worn.
fgsll January 19, 2012 at 05:46 PM
Let me get this straight, the federal government is going to pay thousands (which will end up being millions, of course) to replace streetcar rails THAT AREN'T USED!!!!How stupid are they? If the rich people in Georgetown want their ****** streetcar rails, let them pony up the cost of them. Otherwise, just pull them up and lay down some asphalt.
Dara January 19, 2012 at 09:50 PM
The project is partially funded by federal dollars and partially by the District. The project zone is within the Georgetown National Historic Landmark District. Strong community involvement determined the current plan to keep the streetcar rails on both O and P Streets. A case study developed by the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation outlines the efforts of the community to ensure the rails were preserved as part of the much needed rehabilitation of the streets. You can read the case study here: http://www.achp.gov/fhwa_section106_dc.html If you have any questions concerning the project, please do not hesitate to contact us directly - info@fixingOandPstreets.com. Thank you, Dara Ward Public Information Consultant, O&P Streets Rehabilitation Project
Sloan Auchincloss January 20, 2012 at 12:44 PM
It's best to remove the tracks as they inhibit parking, a vital need in this upscale neighborhood. BUT......an effective investmentment of public transit dollars would be to restore the trolley line--partial right--of-way still exists--to Glen Echo. Spectacular views of the Potomac would attract scads of tourists. Business and Georgetown U. students would find value as well. All aboard! Sloan Auchincloss
James Lee January 26, 2012 at 09:27 PM
As a financially responsible solution, I suggest the center rail be deleted and the construction cost savings be diverted to something worthwhile.....like a school in Ward 7 or 8 instead of a power rail for a streetcar to nowhere.

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