D.C. to partner with China on $1.5 billion streetcar project

D.C. officials have a new idea to pay for the very expensive streetcars going into the District.

They're looking abroad for the money help, including to China.

Work is already under way on the first phase of the streetcar system along H Street which is scheduled to begin operating next year.

Eventually the street cars will connect east of the river to downtown and then up Georgia Ave. to Silver Spring.

But paying for the $1.5 billion project has been an issue all along.

Two years ago when he was council chair, Mayor Vincent Gray wanted to de-fund the project.

Now his plan is to partner with foreign investors. And top of the list of potential partners is China.

Some merchants and other citizens are outraged, but others are happy to have a foreign government pay for it.

According to a memorandum of understanding the Gray administration signed this week with China, the Export Import Bank of China will support Chinese companies' investment activities in the District and will consider providing corresponding financial facilities to such activities.

On Tuesday top city officials briefed a group of Chinese investors on the streetcar project.

"We're looking at innovative ways to finance and accelerate the expansion of the District's streetcar system, including the possibility of foreign investment," Gray said in a written statement.

One plan would be for the government run Bank of China to pay for the project and then collect a portion of the revenue once the system is up and running.