Clang! Clang! Clang!
Del Ray is sometimes called “the little neighborhood that could,” a reference to the area’s history as a residential spot for railroad workers at Potomac Yard. Since the yard closed, Del Ray has evolved as a sort of Greenwich Village for Alexandria — a stark contrast to the more buttoned down and colonial Old Town. But the two neighborhoods are about to begin sharing one important feature.
No, these are not the streetcars that elected officials in Arlington County have been pushing for years. These are rubber-tire buses designed to look like trolleys, offering free rides to passengers up and down King Street since April 2008. The service has carried 7 million passengers, 450,000 in the last year alone. One survey of riders shows that 25 percent would not have come to the city if it weren’t for the free trolley service in Old Town.
“It’s a very powerful economic engine for the city,” said Abi Lerner, deputy director for the Department of Transportation and Environmental Services.
Now the city is about to expand that service through Del Ray into Arlandria. City officials are on the verge of issuing a request for proposals in the next few months, a process that will eventually come before City Council members for final approval later this year. Council members have already budgeted $700,000 this year and are considering another $700,000 next year. That’s on top of the existing $700,000 cost of the King Street Trolley.
“We can’t call this the Del Ray Trolley,” said Councilman Rob Krupicka, who lives in Del Ray. “The name has to make it clear that this serves Arlandria and Del Ray.”
Hours for the Mount Vernon Avenue trolley — if city leaders decide to go with that name — would be from 3 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. on Thursday and Fridays and from 11:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays.
Parents of public-school children are always drawing attention to Maryland tags dropping of students in the morning, and Councilwoman Alicia Hughes received harsh criticism from Democrats for driving around in a car with Maryland tags during the last campaign. Now the specter of Maryland tags is haunting the city once more.
With the city getting ready to start using its own hybrid diesel trolleys on King Street, the Maryland-based contractor that supplied the vehicles will have a few extra rubber-tire trolleys that aren’t being used. That means the company would be a likely candidate to help launch the new Mount Vernon Trolley service. There’s only one problem: Maryland license plates. City officials say the reason the original Old Town Trolley had Maryland tags was because the business was based in the Free State.
“That’s poppycock,” said Councilman Paul Smedberg. “That same operator has trolleys in the District and all those vehicles have District plates on them.”
Demolition Date Unclear
Alexandria’s coal-fired power plant is about to experience its last season on the waterfront. Use of the facility has been scaled back in recent years, with the facility limited to providing power during the coldest days and the hottest days of the year. This summer will be the last that the plant will spew particulate matter into city air. Then, on Oct. 1, the plant is expected to shut down for good even though the building and its pollution will probably be around for some time.
“GenOn is not demolishing the plant or any related structures it owns on the site,” said GenOn spokeswoman Misty Allen in a written statement. “Once a developer is on board, it would be expected that the closure then moves into what I call Phase II, ultimate disposition of the leasehold and redevelopment of the site.”