A New Vision for the SE Boulevard

Amazing for August, about 50 people packed a room at the Hill Center on Monday August 4th to learn about and provide feedback on new concepts for a SE Boulevard.  These new ideas have emerged from a DC Office of Planning (OP) neighborhood study in which ANC6B and the DC Department of Transportation (DDOT) are participating.

The study came about after DDOT presented 4 options for the Boulevard at a meeting in November 2013.  ANC6B pushed back on these options with a 9-page letter to DDOT, asking that a neighborhood study precede decisions on what kind/size of road to build.  With Councilmember Wells help, this request became a reality when OP agreed to conduct a “rapid response” neighborhood study.  The study began in April.

The August 4 presentation:  2014-08-04 ANC mtg OP Presentation

Large versions of 7 concept drawings: 2014-08-04 ANC mtg-Concept Alternatives

The concepts include 2- or 4-lane roads and have varying mixes of new housing/retail and parkland.  All provide ways to connect with the Anacostia waterfront. Although Barney Circle is not an explicit component of the OP study, the concepts link to it.  It is an obvious open space that needs to be designed with safe access for pedestrians and bicyclists.

Many of the attendees at the August 4 meeting were residents who live close to the site.  They are understandably concerned about the impact on their existing neighborhood and generally don’t prefer it to change.  But, analysis has to include the needs of the broader Capitol Hill community and consideration of regional traffic flows and how to keep it off residential streets.  Compromise is inevitable.

Subsequent to the meeting, OP will be working with its consultant from SmithGroup to create 3 “finalist” concepts based on the input from all of us.  ANC6B plans to hold a second Community Meeting–most likely led by CM Wells–in September to discuss these options.  ANC6B expects DDOT to restart the NEPA Barney Circle & SE Boulevard Transportation Planning Study –that has been on hiatus during the OP study–in early 2015.

A new wrinkle discussed at the Monday meeting was that DDOT plans to reopen the old lanes of the SE/SW Freeway between 11th Street SE and Barney Circle by the end of this year.  These lanes were closed about 18 months ago to enable the 11th Street Bridge project to use the space for staging and storage as that project built ramps and overpasses on the Capitol Hill side of the bridge.  This reopening has major implications for the DDOT NEPA study.  First, this freeway segment becomes the No Build option in the study.  Second, in my view, it will take the pressure off city officials to get the NEPA study completed in a timely manner, hopefully, incorporating some of the fresh ideas generated by the OP study.

Update:  See also Commissioner Flahaven’s post on the meeting

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