Historic Streetcar System Removed

A compact excavator is used to pull up the rail. | DDOT

The usually heavily trafficked O and P Streets in Georgetown are, of late, looking more like excavation sites than roads. DDOT is delving into the next phase in its $11 million mission to rehabilitate the area, removing the long-buried streetcar tracks and unearthing a forgotten chunk of Georgetown history.

The rails are being uncovered and removed, and the streets are being re-paved with cobblestone to preserve the historic roads yet make them even and safe to drive on. Some of the rail systems, which are remarkably well preserved, will be put back into the streets after being reinforced as remaining examples of Washington’s original, unique streetcar system.

On the day that the first rails were unearthed, the National Park Service was at the scene to document the event as part of an account called the Historic American Engineering Record which will be housed at the Library of Congress.

DC’s streetcars began their circuits around the city in 1888 and continued to service the nation’s capital city until 1962, when they finally gave way to more modern systems of transit.

Now, the old railways are making concessions to the modern world one more time as DDOT restores streets, replaces sewers, installs new streetlights and fixes up water mains and gas lines. The project is scheduled to last for 18 months.

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