Transportation Moves on The Hill

Maybe it was setting up and chairing a 6B Transportation Committee in 2011 that opened my eyes to the slew of transportation projects affecting Hill denizens.  Maybe there is a recent spurt in such activity and I would have noticed anyway.  But, spurt there is!

If you drive, bike or walk around or through Capitol Hill, get ready for some near- and long-term changes.  And, lots of studying.

We should all be aware of the 11th Street Bridges Project; it has been underway for several years now.  But, what changed in late 2012 and will be ongoing in 2013 and 2014 is a focus of the work on the Capitol Hill side of the Anacostia River.  Once the fourth vehicle lane and a pedestrian/bike lane of the Local 11th Street Bridge is completed in Spring 2013, the bridges themselves will be done.  What then remains is making all the new connections, removing old ones, and converting a portion of the SE Freeway into a boulevard.

The conversion will be fascinating to watch, I think, (it’s a big trench to fill) but cause commuters used to the SE Freeway/Sousa Bridge route between DC and MD some headaches until they learn the new I695 to I295 route via the 11th Street freeway bridge.  Between January 22 & 25, the SE Freeway between 8th Street SE and Barney Circle was reduced to one lane eastbound.  As of January 31, the route will be closed for 18-20 months while the roadway is filled to raise it to local street elevation.  Eventually, there will be an signalized intersection at 11th Street SE.

Linked to the Bridges Project is the upcoming Barney Circle NEPA Environmental Assessment.  Under this EA, the balance of the SE Freeway conversion to a boulevard will be designed and Barney Circle and environs will be redesigned.  Of course, studying and deciding does not constitute “doing” so one of the big questions for all the studies mentioned here is funding availability.  The date of the first public meeting on the Barney Circle project has been set for Thursday 21 February, 630pm to 830pm, at Payne Elementary School, 1445 C Street SE.

Pedestrians who crisscross Pennsylvania and Potomac Avenues and 14th Street SE going to and from the Potomac Metro and the many Metro bus lines, should definitely get involved in the Pennsylvania-Potomac Avenue Intersection Pedestrian Safety Study.  This kicks off with a public meeting on 31 January at Payne Elementary School, 1445 C Street SE, from 630pm to 830pm.  The study of alternatives follows on the heels of previous attempts to solve the problems.  Those who drive through these intersections on a regular basis will also want to know how various options that eventually will be proposed may affect their current routes.  [Update: Presentation materials from January 31 meeting are available on above site.  Officials expect to complete the study by Summer 2013.]

For a year or more, the community has been engaged in the CSX Railroad’s proposed Virginia Avenue Tunnel Project.  CSX is proposing to widen and deepen the existing 100-year old tunnel that runs between 3rd Street to 12th Street SE, basically underneath Virginia Avenue SE and Virginia Avenue Park.  The rationale is to enable CSX to run double-stacked cars through the tunnel in both directions to handle expected increases in freight traffic once the new Panama Canal opens in 2015 or so.

The NEPA process for this VAT project has been underway since September 2011 and rumor has it that a draft EIS (originally scheduled for late 2012) will be released in early 2013.   So far, five public meetings have been held during which construction alternatives have been narrowed down from 10 to 4.  All 4, one of which is a “no-build” alternative, will be fully evaluated in the draft EIS.   Running separately but concurrently with the EIS evaluation is a “Section 106″ process that will evaluate the historic preservation impacts of the construction.  A public meeting will be held on the draft once it is released and everyone will have a period of time (30 days? 45 days?) within which to provide written comments.

Last year ANC6B finally convinced DDOT to “do something” about the pedestrian hazards created by excessive speeding along 17th & 19th Streets SE.  DDOT conducted a 17th & 19th Street Safety Improvement Study and did so in record time over the Summer of 2012 with the participation of many residents.  At the final public meeting in September 2012, participants fully supported the draft conclusions.  ANC6B voted unanimously to support the draft plan at its October 2012 meeting.  Now, the pressure is on to make sure the funding is available to make the many sidewalk, parking, and intersection changes dictated by the study.

More narrowly focused than any of the above is an ANC6B request for DDOT to study vehicle traffic patterns on 4th & 5th Streets SE between East Capitol and Pennsylvania Avenue SE.  The problems here include backups on southbound 4th Street during commute hours that encourage drivers to use 2-way 5th Street, which is not designed as an arterial, as an alternative.  This study is being done by DDOT staff (as opposed to a DDOT contractor) and 6B awaits the results with suggested solutions.

Sometime this year, DDOT will establish a Management of Traffic (MOT) plan for the construction of the Hine project (due to begin in Fall 2013).  This MOT will determine, among other things, truck routes on and off the site and through Capitol Hill, which sidewalks can be closed and under what circumstances, and any road closures.  Along with the directly affected merchants and residents, ANC6B will be involved in the design of the MOT.

Somewhat peripheral to those living within 6B borders but central to SE residents and businesses within 6D and the Capitol Riverfront BID, was a study DDOT conducted in 2012 on along M Street SE/SW.  This study has been completed but is just a preamble to a more detailed NEPA process on transit needs for the area.  Meanwhile, some of the short-term solutions identified in the study may be implemented.

Once people in vehicles get where they are going, they need a parking space. DC’s Department of Transportation has just completed a series of Parking ThinkTanks to gather thoughts from residents and businesses about parking.  The Parking Summit document lists a long catalog of issues; many old but some new.  But, where does DC go next with this?  It is not clear to me at this time.

On top of all this … DC just announced a MoveDC project to “develop a bold and implementation-vision for our city’s transportation future.”  The first public meeting–a MoveDC Idea Exchange–will occur on Saturday 9 February at MLK, Jr. Library from 930am to 300pm.

In the meantime, 6B’s Transportation Committee has identified several issues it may consider in 2013.  Among them are: parking enforcement, sidewalk repairs, the effect of the new 11th Street bridges on traffic within 6B, Bike share stations, and dangerous intersections and speed camera requests.

So, what’s your transportation issue?

 

 

 

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