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Streetcars could roll on H Street this fall

Wednesday - 5/1/2013, 2:46pm  ET

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D.C. Mayor Vince Gray speaks in front of the first streetcar vehicle to arrive at the testing site in Anacostia Wednesday. Streetcars could begin serving passengers along H Street by the end of the year. (WTOP/Andrew Mollenbeck).

WASHINGTON - D.C. streetcars have arrived for testing, and officials say passengers could be able to catch a ride before the end of the year.

All three vehicles that make up the initial fleet will be in place by Thursday for the testing phase. The Anacostia Testing and Commissioning Site is also where staff will train before service begins.

Ultimately, these streetcars will roll on H Street and Benning Road in Northeast.

"Our goal is to have the cars on H Street this fall," says Terry Bellamy, director of the District Department of Transportation. "Once the Federal Transit Administration certifies it, we'll go into revenue service."

For the past three years, the streetcars have been in storage at Metro's facility in Greenbelt while the District constructed the street rails and the testing site.

Their arrival in Anacostia signals the return of streetcar service after a 50-year absence in the District.

Speaking at a news conference Wednesday, Mayor Vincent Gray said he had been to Portland, Oregon, twice to see the system in that area.

"There's just a much more neighborhood-friendly environment on the streetcars," Gray said. "The interaction I found among the people who were on the streetcar was qualitatively different than it was on the buses and the light rail."

The D.C. Streetcar program is planning to hire its first eight operations and maintenance employees in the next two months.

The streetcars themselves are 66 feet long and 8 feet wide. They're designed to carry up to 157 passengers.

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