Track installation work has begun on the much-delayed $55m Anacostia streetcar project in Southeast Washington, US.

The laying of tracks has begun at Firth Sterling Avenue with the South Capitol Street intersection work expected to start next week.

The project is a step ahead in the state’s billion-dollar plan to build a network of street cars (a form of light rail powered by overhead wires) and rapid buses in the district over the next two decades. The move follows the success of similar projects in the cities of San Francisco, Seattle and Portland.

The project, initially scheduled to be completed by 2009, is now expected to be partly completed before 2012.

The $10m-worth three trolleys, purchased nearly three years ago to be used on the line, have been lying unused in the Czech Republic, where they were manufactured by Skoda-Inekon.