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Streetcar wires energized, public warned to steer clear

Friday - 2/28/2014, 3:55pm  ET

WASHINGTON - The DC Streetcar is one step closer to opening, and that is prompting a warning to stay away from the wires that power the cars.

The District Department of Transportation says the overhead wires on H Street NE and Benning Road will now remain fully energized nearly all day, everyday.

That will help engineers run more of the tests needed before the streetcar can open for full passenger service sometime this year. But the energized lines also means anyone who touches the wires will be putting themselves at risk of a dangerous electric shock.

"There really is no difference in how we treat the overhead contact wire from how we would treat a Pepco aerial distribution or transmission wire. The same rules apply. You don't want to touch it, and you always need to assume that it's live," Garrafa says.

Engineers have been running some of the streetcars on the 2.4 mile-line for training and testing since December.

Garrafa says the line's systems side, including the electrical feeds to the system, has passed all of its construction acceptance testing.

"From this point forward we'll start to see a more intense effort - providing the weather cooperates - with the system integration testing to achieve certification," Garraffa says.

The testing will include "a lot more activity", including streetcars running up and down the line more often.

Once the line passes those tests, the streetcars will run along H Street from Union Station to Spingarn High School and the Langston Golf Course on Benning Road. DC Streetcar says it is important for anyone in the area (including H Street partiers) to remember these safety tips:

  • The public, including all District service agencies and utility companies, should use caution around such wires and poles.

  • The overhead wire is energized at 750v DC. Do not attempt to climb the poles, touch the wires, or throw things at them.

  • Remain 10 feet away from live wires at all times.
  • Streetcar power substations are prohibited from entry. Electricity flows through the substation to the overhead wires to supply power to the streetcars.

Eventually, the District hopes to build 37 miles of streetcar lines throughout the entire city, including extensions of this initial route over the Anacostia River to the Benning Road Metro station.

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