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Tram wars! Why streetcars are back — whether you like it or not

Keeping up with the progress of America’s streetcar projects is no small task. Last Friday, Washington, D.C., rolled a tram onto the street behind Union Station, the city’s first in 50 years. On Saturday, Salt Lake City opened the Sugar House streetcar line, which runs two miles from a regional rail station to a business district south of downtown. Meanwhile, it was “do-or-die” week for the Cincinnati streetcar, as supporters scrambled to save a downtown spur whose construction the mayor-elect has pledged to halt. On Thursday, they succeeded; construction in Cincinnati will continue.

Ten U.S. cities have streetcar projects in various stages of construction, while five more — San AntonioKansas CityFort LauderdaleSt. Louis and Detroit — have secured funding but not yet broken ground. Still other cities, such as MilwaukeeMinneapolis and Los Angeles, have streetcar plans in various stages of development. Barring a series of Cincinnati-style meltdowns, by 2015 the U.S. will have about 30 cities with streetcars, more than twice as many as at the millennium.

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