After DC Council Chairman Vincent Gray changed his mind, the DC Council reversed itself yesterday and restored fiscal year 2011 funding for work on the H Street-Benning Road NE portion of DC’s new streetcar system.
Earlier in the day, the Council voted 11 to 2 to remove $50 million in streetcar funding as part of efforts to close a $550 million budget gap.
The Washington Post describes the scenario that led to Gray’s change of heart:
But hours later — after a backlash from at least one member of Congress and hundreds of residents who jammed government phone lines, community e-mail groups and Gray’s Web site — the late-night maneuver had been scrapped. By midday Wednesday, Gray was back at the council dais, telling his colleagues that he and city finance officials had found $50 million to keep the streetcar program on track.
Mayor Adrian Fenty strongly supports the planned 37-mile system and the first part of the line is scheduled to open in fall 2012, the H Street-Benning Road NE line. Gray is Fenty’s main challenger in the September 14 Democratic primary for mayor. Gray’s campaign released a statement yesterday afternoon regarding Gray’s support of the new streetcar system.
The next section of Phase 1s the Anacostia line. Phase 2 of the city’s streetcar plans (DDoT map) put tracks in the Logan Circle-U Street area–on 14th Street and U Street NW. The last tracks of DC’s first streetcar system were removed in 1962.
The DC Council is also under great pressure to maintain levels of social services spending as it figures out ways to balance next year’s budget–groups demanding no cuts in social services were at the DC Council Tuesday.