Random Notes from Beat26

from the June 21 Beat26 Newsletter … what is this?

Location: 10th and PA Ave SE

from the March 25 Beat26 Newsletter …

Pennsylvania Avenue SE Streetlights & Traffic Signals Upgrade Project

Project Information as of April 2021

DDOT is now in the process of distributing these notices about the project to affected businesses and residents.  DDOT plans to start the work on or about April 5.  This initial work, however, may only include the contractor mobilizing and starting preparation work such posting construction warning signs.

from the March 2, 2021 Beat26 Newsletter …

VIRGINIA AVENUE PARK MILESTONE
After I don’t know how long … construction in the Park has finally concluded. For now.  There are no humps, invasive vegetation.  Instead, gentle slopes, new grass, concrete paths, 24 new trees, benches and tables, and a large reddish-orange gazebo.  To be added this Spring: a 2,700 sq ft playground.  And, off into the future (say 2025-ish) a planned bike/pedestrian path along the northern edge may be installed, connecting the existing Virginia Avenue bike path to 11th Street.

Of course, this newly completed center part of the Park is flanked by the existing Community Garden on the west and the Dog Park on the east.  Alas, the Great Lawn in the northern middle section is not much of a lawn.  It will be interesting to see if, as designed, pick-up sports occur there anyway.

Steve, the DDOT Urban Forester who planted the trees, seeks volunteers to water trees and de-compact their surrounding soils this Summer.  Incentives include lunch on him and naming rights for trees.  Details are not yet worked out but if you want to consider volunteering, send me your name and email address.  (The Park is located between 9th & 11th Streets SE and I-695 & Potomac Avenue SE)

From an Email Sent to DC Officials by a Resident of ANC6B on 12/22/20 …

“I am a homeowner who lives in the 1000 block of 13th Street SE. I am writing, as I have several times over the past few years, to plead that you more effectively address the violence that consistently occurs in our immediate neighborhood.

“Two weeks ago, there was a murder in the alley behind our house at 9:30 p.m. on a weekday night. I was sitting in our living room, which faces the alley. My wife was rocking our 3-month-old son to sleep in his bedroom, which also faces the alley. Our dog started barking and, thinking it was fireworks because there were so many shots in such quick succession, and not wanting the baby to wake, I let the dog out and stepped outside. I saw one of the shooters, and he could see me, before he got in a car and sped away down the alley. Shortly thereafter, I looked in the alley and saw a body lying toward the end of it … You don’t have to be a detective to deduce that the shooting behind my home was not happenstance.

“I gave a statement to an officer about what I had heard and seen. My neighbors did the same and provided their video evidence. But if you were to ask me whether I think anything will change after this, the sad answer is that I do not think it will. Inevitably, there will be another fatal shooting outside my home in the coming days or weeks. The cycle will continue.

“From the perspective of the residents of the neighborhood with whom I have spoken in the aftermath of yet another horrible shooting, including residents of Potomac Gardens and the Hopkins Apartments, your approach to addressing the violence in the area has been a failure. For years, there have consistently been shootings and violence in four well-established areas: 1) the 1200 block of L Street SE, outside the entrance to Potomac Gardens; 2) the intersection of 12th and K Streets SE, outside the entrance to the Hopkins Apartments; 3) the intersection of 14th and L Streets SE, outside the entrance to the Hopkins Apartments; and 4) most recently, the intersection of 13th and L Streets SE, outside the entrance to the Hopkins Apartments, around the corner from where the man above was killed and another man was shot multiple times.

“All of the shootings and violence in the neighborhood follow a familiar, unending pattern. The police allow open-air drug markets to operate uninterrupted at a particular location outside the entrance to one of the public housing buildings. Inevitably, there is a shooting at one of these locations. The police increase patrols for a week or two that are limited to that immediate location. At the same time, the drug market shifts a few blocks to one of the other three locations in the neighborhood. That market operates, unmolested, until there is another shooting. And on, and on, and on.

“The operation of the open-air drug markets that are the foundation of the violence is obvious to any resident. Cars with out-of-District plates come and go at all hours solely and frequently at that location. Individuals shift to hanging out at the location, frequently mingling in the stairwells at the entrances to the housing complexes, servicing the drivers and some pedestrians. The hand-to-hands are blatant and often in full view of an idling police car or a collection of officers standing and chatting a little bit further down the block. When I, or the neighbors who witness these exchanges, call the police, they rarely come to investigate unless we can report there was a visible firearm. I have always offered to give a statement when asked by the dispatch officer over the phone. No officer has ever come to my door to take one.

“I do not place sole blame on the MPD for all of the inaction, though the lack of urgency or concern that I and my neighbors see in the day-to-day behavior of the patrol officers is troubling. Politicians have done little, if anything, to address the violence, despite repeated promises to do more.

“Charles, you, in particular, have been a vocal critic of the MPD. You and your colleagues on the City Council have pushed the end of the buy-bust approach to disrupting the drug markets, one of the few effective ways to address them. The violence that occurs between rival dealers and gang members is the inevitable result. As you have correctly noted, Charles, law enforcement cannot be the only solution to the problems that plague the community. Reforms in how policing is conducted are necessary. But when there is clear evidence of criminal activity occurring, police must step in and be part of the solution. A latex-gloved shooter who lived a 20-minute drive away did not turn up in the alley behind my home without having a reason for being there.

“The city’s housing policies and the lack of focus on community safety are also to blame. The Mayor, the City Council, and the ANC’s push to expand public housing in the district is important and laudable. But you cannot ignore the current state of the current stock of public housing that exists in the District and the role that it plays in the violence in our community. The Potomac Gardens and Hopkins buildings have been there for decades and their condition is deplorable. There is zero security presence at the entrances. Many of them do not even have doors. Perhaps, instead of obsessing over bike lanes, the ANC could make community safety a serious, sustained focus. The residents of Potomac Gardens and the Hopkins Apartments deserve better from all of you. They deserve to be able to enter and exit their homes without having to pass by sustained drug activity and to face the serious risk of getting caught in crossfire on a bi-weekly basis.

“As I have said in the past, I welcome a dialogue with you all about these issues. More than anything, I implore you to take concrete action. Ramp up the use of undercovers to perform buy-bust operations to disrupt the open-air drug markets. Enforce parking laws to ensure that out-of-town drug dealers do not sit idle outside the buildings continually serving customers. Seriously consider the redevelopment of Potomac Gardens and the Hopkins Apartments and hold hearings, starting at the ANC level and at the City Council level, on their future. In the interim, install security doors and hire security guards to protect the residents of these locations and ensure that individuals who are there to cause problems have a more difficult time exploiting them.

“I know these issues are not easy, but you must do more, and do better. The community demands it.”

From the December 14, 2020 Beat26 Newsletter:  “VPP.  6B’s Dec.  & Covid of course”

ANC6B DEC MEETING: December 8
This time I contributed to at least an additional 20 minutes of the 3H50M meeting. There was some good time spent thanking two departing Commissioners (Jayaraman & Waud) for their excellent service and hoping they hang around anyway.  The Commission will be greeting 3 new Commissioners in January: Peter Wright (6B08), Edward Ryder (6B07) and Alison Horn (6B09).  Commissioner-elect Horn fills the slot that has been vacant since early this year when Kasie Clark moved westward and the pandemic prevented holding a special election to replace her.

So, what else did we do?  We took a number of votes, of course. The easy ones were for those items on the Consent Agenda.  Included were 3 transportation ones (Pennsylvania & Potomac Avenues SE Intersection Improvement Project, 2020 DDOT I-695 & 11th Street SE Traffic Study, and a speed hump for the 1700 block of Bay Street SE); and 1 zoning case (BZA 20335, 741 12th Street SE).

Then we voted unanimously to approve a new Settlement Agreement and support the retail liquor license renewal for Harris Teeter; and send a letter to the ABC Board requesting a delay in the hearing date for our protest of the Handle-19 new license with gambling endorsement until January 2021.  Later on, the Commission discussed a need to authorize up to $20K to hire a lawyer to represent us at the hearing.  There was some discussion about whom to hire but no decision made as more research was deemed necessary.

Under Planning & Zoning, there ensued a lengthy discussion on a trash room to reduce rodent problems at the Chipotle establishment, 413 8th Street SE.  Chipotle is seeking a ten-year extension of a special exception to allow fast food use at this location.  However, in the end, no action was taken since the BZA hearing has been moved to February 2021.  This issue will re-emerge; most likely on the January agenda.

Another discussion involved a proposed text amendment (Zoning Commission 20-19) on heights and alley setbacks for accessory buildings in residential districts.  Ultimately, the ANC decided not to opine on the case.

Under the Transportation Committee, a 20-minute discussion took place on the aftermath of a November decision to send comments to DDOT on the Kentucky Avenue SE Advisory Bike Lane project.  A clerical error had caused a not yet reviewed draft letter to be transmitted to DDOT; after which I created an addendum incorporating the missing review elements. But I had balked at adding other info I considered to be out of scope with the original motion.  This all got settled amid some confusion and will be revisited at the ANC6B Executive Committee Meeting on 12/17.

Other actions: A letter to DGS and others with critics of the Eastern Market Governance Strategic Plan and the ANC’s 2021 Calendar were approved unanimously.  A resolution urging the DC Council to take action to correct the disfranchisement of voters at the DC Jail was approved by a vote of 8-1-0.

Here’s some information I gathered at the meeting.  Mr. Gerard Brown, manager of the DOH rodent abatement program, told us the program now has 17 pest & code inspectors.  During the pandemic, rodent problems have shifted from restaurant areas to residential trash.  Anyone can request their services via 311.  Mr. Brown said he is not sure their birth control abatement method is working but that carbon monoxide injected into burrows is very effective. ~ The Office of the DC Auditor has released a report “DC Lacked Uniform System to Track, Reduce Settlements & Judgements” ~ The Mayor has assigned new MOCRS to Ward 6: Talib Shakir and Isamar Vaquero.  Moving on to other jobs are Tyler Williams and Mikaela Ferrill. ~ The Boys & Girls Club project will not come back to the ANC until sometime in 2021. ~ Maurice Cook, recent recipient of a Brickie Award and Executive Director of Serve Your City, spoke about the need for the ANC to support affordable housing developments. ~ The artificial Christmas Tree and Menorah installed by CH BID in EMMP (Parcel 1) were blown down (but quickly were resurrected).

… and it all came to an end at 1050 pm.

Thanks for each and every 820 vote on November 3, 2020.
My new 2-year term begins January 2021.

From the October 22 Beat26 Newsletter “Vote now. Halloween. Census. Crime. 6B met.”

NO MORE CRIME (reports)?
After 15 years of tracking crime affecting us on Capitol Hill, I had no idea what occurred in September 2020 as I began to write this newsletter.  As mentioned a while back, MPD is no longer providing the relatively simple database from which I have been extracting monthly data (for ANC6B and PSAs 106, 107, and 108) and has replaced it with Crime Cards.

Not knowing was making me feel a bit vulnerable.  So, I stopped writing and played around a bit and managed to manipulate the Cards to show crime reports for ANC6B for the period September 1 through 30, 2020: They total 91 of which there was 1 assault, 2 robberies, 2 burglaries, 20 thefts from auto, 53 thefts, 13 stolen autos, and 0 arsons.  According to my August 2020 Crime compilation, there were also 91 total crime reports in August but the distribution differs with violent crimes cut in half from 6 then to 3 in September.

Crime Cards does enable one to download the background data but instead of the 8 data points I’ve been used to, I ended up with 29.  TMI, indeed.

The Crime Card I created is here.  It has a map, graphs, a list of the individual reports, and links to the First District roster for officials contact info.  And, more.  Not bad.  But, if you just want to check on crime periodically, go here to the MPD First District Google Group.

From the October 4 Beat26 Newsletter “Voting. 6B’s October. EMMP & More

VOTING. IT STARTS OCT 27. (EARLIER IF YOU USE A BOX)
Councilmember Allen’s Ward 6 Update: How To Vote in the General Election
It’s all here.

UPDATE ON EMMP PHASE TWO CONSTRUCTION
At the 10/1 virtual EMMP community meeting I had difficulties hearing the speakers and reading the slides presented.  What I do know is most of what I wrote in my 8/30 Newsletter is still accurate.  So, I have pasted an edited version of that write up below with any new information I gleaned from the 10/1 meeting.  The 10/1 presentation is here.

The EMMP project consists of 6 Parcels separated by roadways, centered at 8th & Pennsylvania Ave SE.  Construction on Parcel 1 (so-called EMMP Phase One) ended about a month or so ago but there are bits and pieces on a punch list (see below).  Construction on the remaining 5 Parcels (Phase Two) is scheduled to begin in October 2020, once permits are available, and be completed by April 2021.  This work will include various pedestrian safety/traffic improvements at the South Carolina Avenue SE corners of 7th & D SE and 9th & D SE and will cause some temporary traffic diversions.

Here are some details. Fences will surround each Parcel. Most sidewalks around the perimeters of the Parcels will remain open for the duration of the construction but will be temporarily closed toward the end of the work as they are repaired.  An exception is the fence that goes around the Metro plaza (Parcel 4); it will leave the Metro Station entrance and all perimeter sidewalks open except along the east side of 7th Street across from the SE Library.  This side of 7th will be the Phase Two construction staging area and the construction entrance to Parcel 4 will be at the corner of 7th & D SE.  The street itself will be temporarily closed at some point to install the “tabletop walkway” between Parcel 4 and the library.

The slip lanes on Parcels 3 and 6 will be permanently closed.   At Parcel 6, a once planned lay by for dropoff/pickups will not be created on Pennsylvania Avenue or along 8th Street.  Construction vehicles will be parked inside the fences surrounding these Parcels.

All the Phase Two landscaping and presumably installation of an art sculpture (on Parcel 4) will occur in the Spring.

To finish up Parcel 1, handrails will be added to the step midpoint on the 9th Street side, the shade structures for the playground are expected to be installed starting October 5, closing the playground for 3 days, way-finder panels should be installed in October and replacement trees in mid-October.

From the August 30 Beat 26 Newsletter “6B in September & Other Things”

VIRGINIA AVENUE PARK … almost!
In about two weeks, the renovations on the southern part of the Park may be completed.  Meanwhile, here’s a photo of the shade structure (“gazebo”) being installed along the walkway.

Shade structure being installed in Virginia Avenue Park, Aug 2020

From the July 19 Beat26 Newsletter (Heat Emergency. ANC6B on July 14. Miscellany) here’s an excerpt on the July 14 ANC meeting:

ANC6B JULY MEETING SUMMARY
We talked and voted for 3 hours and 15 minutes on July 14.  There were a number of controversial issues: grant applications, school names, heliport, a zoning case we’ve reviewed innumerable times, …

The proposal of a Resolution to support DC Council Bill B23-0234 to establish an Advisory Commission on Monuments, Markers, and Symbols was combined with renaming Tyler and Brent Elementary Schools.  This combination caused problems for some Commissioners including me. On the one hand it asked us to support a process to settle difficult issues we are confronting these days about historical figures in our public spaces. At the same time, though, the Resolution urged, without applying a thorough process, that both school names be changed.

Wisdom prevailed and the Commission separated the two parts of the Resolution.  Ultimately, we voted 8-0-0 to support the Council Bill and then 5-2-1 in support of changing the school names while acknowledging that the school communities rather than the ANC should play a leadership role that process.

The zoning case for Rear 203 3rd Street SE involves adding a second story to an alley garage structure to create a two-level single family dwelling.  We’ve been reviewing the plans often over the year.  As an alley structure, it abuts residential lots that face 3rd Street.  We went several rounds on the preceding historic preservation case and now are doing the same with the zoning case, which introduces issues of privacy and sunlight.  The applicant produced a sun study which shows minor changes from the existing situation.  Complicating the situation is a history of distrust between the alley lot owner and an abutting neighbor.  After a long and sometimes heated debate, the ANC voted 7-1-0 in support of the zoning case.

With no institutional background in grant giving, the ANC plunged into it when the DC Council allowed us to expend our excess funds for humanitarian purposes during the pandemic health emergency.  Commissioners Waud and Sroufe took the lead in setting up an Accelerator Grant Program and soliciting applications with an initial deadline of July 13.

At the July 14 meeting we had two requests to consider.  One— Serve Your City—asked for more funding than the ANC’s maximum per application of $15,000. The request was complicated. Rather than proposing to fund a specific activity, the application included an array of programs.  Since we don’t have a definition of “humanitarian purpose,” each Commissioner had to individually decide whether this array fit. The ANC voted 7-1-0 to fund the request at $15,000.  I voted in opposition because of my uncertainty about the humanitarian nature of some aspects of the application (which had only been available for review ½ hour prior to the meeting). The other applicant— Everyone Home DC—asked for $5,000 to purchase new winter clothes for the children it serves so they don’t have to share with one another this Fall as the pandemic continues.

The next grant round deadline is in September.  Details are on the ANC website here .  With $20K granted in July, the ANC has $25K remaining to offer.

The Heliport Issue has suddenly resurfaced! For months the ANC has been unable to determine the status of any plan to move the current facility from Buzzards Point to the Washington Gas remediation site along the Anacostia River at Water & 12th Streets SE. In late 2019 we, along with others, made a bit of noise (in opposition) about this possibility, which got an Assistant DC Administrator to appear at the November 2019 ANC meeting. Mr. Jay Melder followed that appearance by sending the ANC an email responding to a series of questions, including the following statement:

“Additionally, as you are aware, the disposition of public land involves a public process. If a project were to be officially proposed and considered, all necessary review, studies, public engagement, and legislative processes would be carried out, including engagement of any impacted ANCs and stakeholder groups.”

Early this year, we learned that the private operator of the heliport had made an unsolicited request of the DC Administrator to move his operations to the Washington Gas site.  To date, the DC Administrator’s office and the Office of Planning have evaded any ANC or other inquiries about the request.

So … ANC6B voted unanimously on July 14 to initiate a “map amendment” process to change the zoning category of the lots in question to one in which a heliport would not be an allowable use.  There will be more on this.  Where is that promised public process?  Why aren’t OP and the DC Administrator talking?   What’s going on behind our backs?

Here’s a few of the simpler unanimous actions the ANC took in July.

  • Agreed on 3 points to raise at an upcoming Zoning Commission Roundtable regarding possible text amendments requiring Expanded IZ  to apply to zones currently exempt from Regular IZ.  (IZ or “Inclusionary Zoning” determines how many affordable units are required for developments.)
  • Sent a request to DDOT to change curbside parking along the west side of the 500 block of 8th Street SE to a pedestrian walkway to improve the Covid-19 safety of pedestrians.
  • Supported Historic Preservation applications for residence renovations at 741 12th Street SE and 715 10th Street SE
  • Asked the Zoning Commission to schedule its hearing on the 1333 M Street SE PUD to enable the ANC to take its final vote at our September 8 monthly meeting since the Commission does not meet in August.
  • Supported the ANC’s FY20 3rd Quarter Report which shows interest and allotment income but no expenditures during the period.

From the July 3 Beat 26 Newsletter: “ANC6B in July & Other Miscellany ”
Kirsten Runs Again (sign her petition), Slow Streets across DC, New Bike Racks in Ward 6 and more.  Subscribe via Beat26@aol.com.

NOTE: Since the March 12th issue of my Beat26 Newsletter, almost the entire contents have been on the Coronavirus situation we find ourselves in the midst of.  Below are some key links to DC information on Coronavirus shared in those issues.  All of the official District of Columbia actions, information, and data are on this website:  https://coronavirus.dc.gov/
Key sections are News (for Mayor’s Orders and daily updates on COVID-19 cases), Recovery (for financial assistance for individuals and businesses), Meals (site and times of distribution by Seniors and students), Testing (for information on where tests are conducted in DC and the criteria for eligibility) and Phase One and Phase Two.  Official sites for Maryland and Virginia.

From the January 10 Newsletter: “Changes, Trees, Crime & Verdi”
29 TREES for VIRGINIA AVENUE PARK

A week before Christmas, Casey Trees and a large group of its hardy volunteers spent a rainy morning planting a mixed variety of trees to ultimately provide shade for users of the Park.

Background on the Park:
https://www.kirsten6b.org/renderings-of-virginia-avenue-park/
and the Friends of Virginia Avenue Park
https://www.kirsten6b.org/friends-of-va-park/

From the November 29 Newsletter:

UPDATE ON HELIPORT: As I requested at the November ANC6B meeting, Mr. Jay Melder, Assistant City Administrator, has sent the ANC responses to the list of questions from the Heliport Community Meeting on August 26.  (See ANC6B Letter of September below.) In the 11/27 email Melder says “I feel it is important that I first reiterate that there is no new heliport project currently planned for 11th and Water Street, or any other site.”  For those many questions which would be specific to an actual project/process, Mr. Melder declined to speculate.

Content of Jay Melder Email 11-27 on Heliport

From the November 10 Newsletter:

HELIPORT ANYONE?  The Commission has been informed that the Deputy City Administrator will appear at the Tuesday, November 12 ANC6B Monthly Meeting.  This is an opportunity to ask questions about apparent plans to relocate the existing heliport from Buzzard Point to the Washington Gas site, 12th & Water Streets SE, next to the 11th Street Bridge Park.  (See September 27 notes below)

2020 VISITOR PARKING PASSES
You can register for a 2020 VPP starting on Tuesday November 12.  To qualify, your household address must be on an RPP street; only one pass per household.  The VPP can only be used for parking within your ANC boundary. Go to https://vpp.ddot.dc.gov/vpp to apply.
Go to https://ddot.dc.gov/node/538662 for program details.

LEAF COLLECTIONS BEGAN NOVEMBER 3
Once again this annual program has split Ward 6 into 5 sections.  Sections A & B are in NE areas of the Ward.  Section C covers areas in both NE and SE on the eastern edge of the Ward.  Sections D & E are in SE.

If you live within Section A, leaves should have been raked out by Sunday Nov 3 for the first round pick up the week of Nov 4.  Section B is next with rake out by Nov 10; Section C, Nov 17; Section D, Nov 24; Section E, Dec 1. The second pick up round begins in Section A on Dec 15 and so on.

DPW told me that the 2019 brochure was mailed to all households. But, like last year, I didn’t receive one.  I’m relying on a digital version at https://dpw.dc.gov/service/leaf-and-holiday-tree-collection

From the September 27 Newsletter:

ANC6B Letter to DC Mayor on Heliport
09-2019_ANC 6B_Relocation of the South Capitol Street Heliport

From the August 29 Newsletter:

Photo of Heliport
at 1725 South Capitol SE and potential location in ANC6B

Thanks to the 40+ residents who attended our quickly organized 8/26 Community Meeting on DC’s apparent plans to install a heliport at the Washington Gas site at 12th & Water Street SE next to the Anacostia River.  A key thing I learned is to call the current and proposed facility “heliports” rather than “helipads.” A helipad provides a take-off/landing surface for helicopters like the ones atop hospital buildings.  The heliport has, in addition to 2 pads, a fueling station and other facilities used by various helicopters flying over our heads.   If DC is successful, this is what would we have situated next to the 11th Street Bridge Park.

Most of the meeting was spent generating a long list of questions about the DC proposal for which we still know very little and for which we will now try to get answers.  We did learn from Congressional Aviation, the operator of the current heliport, that its lease expires in 2022 and their sense that the city is quite focused on moving existing operations to the ANC6B site.  Some questions centered on current heliport operations to better understand potential impacts. We also want to know what other sites are being considered, what selection criteria are being used, what impacts are being studied, and the City Administrator’s timeline for making a decision.

The answer to “why close the current heliport” appears to clearly be pressure to develop the land it occupies in Buzzard Point.  See this Urban Turf article, for instance.

Here are links to the dcist story on the 8/26 meeting and to the summary of Congresswoman Norton’s recent meeting on helicopter noise

From the August 17 Newsletter:

Helipad Aug 26 Community Meeting

DO YOU WANT A HELIPAD ON CAPITOL HILL??
The District is exploring the installation of up to TWO active helicopter pads on Capitol Hill and is considering placing these helipads at the old Washington Gas site at 12th & Water Street SE along the banks of the Anacostia River.

A helicopter landing pad will cause noise pollution for nearby residents and for river activity on Boathouse Row and could impede the existing Anacostia River Trail.  In addition, placing a helicopter refueling station on site presents ecological dangers to a restored Anacostia River.

To learn more and/or help develop a strategy, come to a Community Meeting on Monday, August 26 at the SE Library, 403 7th Street SE from 630 pm to 830pm.

This meeting has been organized by ANC 6B Commissioners: Corey Holman 6b06@anc.dc.gov, Kelly Waud 6b07@anc.dc.gov and Kirsten Oldenburg 6b04@anc.dc.gov.

A Neighborhood SE Boulevard

At least 60 people attended a Community Meeting on December 11th, led by Councilmember Tommy Wells, to discuss the pros and cons of 3 SE Boulevard options that have emerged from the 6-month Neighborhood Planning study led by the DC Office of Planning (OP) with the active participation of ANC6B Commissioners and DDOT staff.

This study came about because of 6B’s major disappointment with the options proposed by DDOT in November 2013, as I discussed in my posting DDOT’s Barney Circle & SE Boulevard: Is This What We Want?  In early 2014, ANC6B actively promoted the alternative of planning this new boulevard within the context of the emerging neighborhood. CM Wells intervention during that time made the OP study a reality.

Two of the new options use a large portion of the land area now available for a freeway for housing.  One of these (A) includes a road between Barney Circle and 11th Street SE with two lanes in each direction with the possibility of adding a bus parking/streetcar facility underground.  The other (B) includes a two-lane road without the bus facility.  The third option (C) includes the underground facility but sets aside space above for a linear park and 4 lane boulevard instead of housing.  All options extend the existing 13th, 14th, and 15th Street grid to the new boulevard and, most importantly, provide pedestrian and bicycle access over the CSX tracks to the Anacostia waterfront at Boathouse Row.

While the 3 options are based on detailed knowledge of the available swath of land and surrounding neighborhood, they are conceptual plans.  The next step in this process will be a feasibility study by DDOT that will include traffic flow analysis.  The land area was turned over to the District by the Federal FHWA with the requirement that it be used for “transportation purposes.”  The DDOT study will provide an analysis of the necessary disposition of a portion to use for housing.  DDOT says it does not have a time frame for this study as the elements have not yet been identified but has promised to update the ANC on a quarterly basis.

You can view the detailed OP presentation of Options A, B, and C here.

Also see my A New Vision for the SE Boulevard posting on the previous August 4 presentation of 7 options that form the basis of the current 3 options.

ANC6B Votes 9 Dec 2014

At our last meeting of 2014, three hours of discussion resulted in about 20 votes, most of them 9-0.  While a host of items (Minutes and zoning cases) were voted on in a block under the consent agenda, the rest of the agenda included:

  • 1 Historic Preservation case (1013-1015 E Street SE). Vote was 8-0-1 to support the application.  This case is troubling to nearby neighbors and others as it converts two individual houses into 6 condo units with the addition of a 5-unit carriage house on the alley in the rear.  Most of the objections cannot be dealt with within the context of historic preservation, so they await the zoning case to follow if the HPRB votes in favor of the application.  My motion to support included the assumption that the Board will assure various aspects are designed in keeping with HPO guidelines.  [Update: On 12/18 the Board denied the application which causes the developer to have to rethink the project.]
  • A long debate on the merits of zoning text amendments proposed by the Office of Planning that are designed to curtail the growing number of “pop-ups” (those 3rd story additions on top of row houses).  The major piece of the proposal would limit the “by right” height of houses in R-4 districts (most of Capitol Hill) to 35 feet with zoning relief through a special exception (SE) process to gain the current 40 feet height.  The Commission voted 6-3 on that piece after lengthy debate on the SE provisions and voted 7-1-1 against the change in definition of a mezzanine, 9-0 on the height of a roof structure, and 6-1-2 on the conversion of a residential structure to an apartment house.  The pop-up provisions affect mainly those areas of 6B not already protected by the CH Historic District.
  • Several liquor license matters, one of which is a major annoyance to 6B.  The ABC Board is requiring us to change text language in our Settlement Agreements that the Board has previously approved.
  • 2 letters to DDOT (8-0 and 9-0).  One asks for the replacement of pedestrian crossings along 11th Street SE at K and L Streets SE that were removed to facilitate vehicle movements among the various new on and off ramps for the 11th Street Bridge.  The other one asks that specific one way streets be converted to two way streets now that the on ramp at Virginia Avenue and 9th Street SE no longer exists.  A 3rd letter to DDOT on the Penn-Potomac pedestrian study has been delayed until January.
  • Lots of other letters; among them were to: (1) HPRB to ask that 6B have an opportunity to review the final plans for renovation of the old Remington’s building at 639 PA Ave; (2) Zoning Commission as a followup to its hearing on the PUD for 1333 M Street SE, which 6B has supported; (3) Dept of General Services asking that it move quickly to start the environmental assessment for the Eastern Market plaza redesign project; (4) Marine Barracks Washington with comments on its proposed Section 106 plans under its study to locate a site for a new Bachelor Enlisted Quarters building; (5) DC Council Chair Mendelson asking that he continue to have a Committee on Education rather than fold education into the Committee of the Whole; and a Resolution on the Pepco-Excelon merger (vote 6-0-3); and Position and testimony on the disposition of two parcels at Reservation 13/Hill East.  [Update: The DC Council has voted to support this disposition.]
  • Then, to close out the meeting, were items pertaining to the end of the year and the upcoming new Commission in January: a preliminary schedule for our 2015 meetings and acknowledgements.  Chief among the latter were a resolution thanking CM Wells for his service to Ward 6 and a resolution thanking the 6 departing Commissioners (Campbell, Frishberg, Loveland, Opkins, Pate, and Peisch) and already departed Commissioner Garrison for their service ranging from 2 to 12 years.

After Commissioner Campbell’s final opportunity to recess 6B meetings, at 10pm some of us reconvened (but did not vote on anything) at Beuchert’s for a bit of cheer.

VPPs Change. Somewhat.

DDOT has proposed rules for the annual Visitor Parking Pass (VPP) system that was first introduced in 2007 in some parts of DC.  Most residents within ANC6B became eligible late last year.  On September 9, ANC6B will be voting on comments on the proposed rulemaking recommended by the 6B Transportation Committee.  See the Committee’s September report for details.

Here’s some important information about current and future VPPs:

  1. The current VPPs show an expiration date of September 30, 2014.  However, DDOT has extended this expiration date to December 31, 2014.  The agency will be mailing a postcard notice of this to all households who received FY2014 passes.
  2. In the future, VPPs will be issued by calendar year.  Thus, the next VPP will be for the year 2015.
  3. DDOT will not automatically mail out any 2015 passes. Everyone who wants one will have to “opt in” by requesting a 2015 pass either by telephone (202) 673-6813 or online.
  4. You cannot apply for this 2015 pass until the proposed rules are finalized … sometime in October.  If you apply too early you will receive an FY2014 pass (if you don’t already have one).  If you still want an FY2014 pass, order it soon.  UPDATE 9/26: DDOT will accept requests for 2015 passes starting on October 1 and plan to mail out 2015 passes in December.
  5. Ward 6 residents who live on a Resident Permit Parking (RPP) block are eligible for a VPP but only one will be issued per “housing unit” defined as “a single family home (attached, semi-detached, or detached), a residential unit in a condominium, a residential cooperative unit, a residential unit in a flat, or a residential apartment in an apartment building.”  (If the website VPP request system rejects your address, call the number above or the one on the home page of the website and a staff person can probably approve it as long as it’s a valid address.)

Other Permits  The proposed rulemaking includes a section on on Temporary Home Heath Care Provider Parking Permits and Temporary Visitor Parking Permits.  Both of these permits exist now and there are no changes in them; DDOT has included them in the proposed rulemaking so that all similar parking pass systems are in one place in Chapter 24 of Title 18 of DCMR.  The Health Care permit is obtained from the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).  The Temporary Visitor permit is, as most know, obtained from MPD and is valid for up to 15 days.

Enforcement et cetera  At a meeting with DDOT on the VPP proposed rulemaking, I was told that Parking Enforcement officials (Department of Public Works) will soon carry devices enabling them to scan the ID# on a VPP to determine if it is valid.  Currently, DDOT sends information about reported and voided stolen or lost VPPs to DPW but it is not clear that parking enforcement officers use the information in any way.  I was also told that 2015 VPPs will be mailed to the name of the person applying rather than “current resident.”  That person will, then, become responsible for assuring that their VPP is not used fraudulently.

NOTE:  This posting is an edited version of a Beat26 Newsletter I sent out to subscribers on 9/8/2014.  See Contact Me above If you wish to be on that email list

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

Report: ANC6B July 2014 Meeting

It took 10 Commissioners almost 3 and a half hours on Tuesday night to get through a very extensive agenda.  First we had to sort through all the historic preservation (HP) and zoning cases on the consent agenda.  Many of the HP cases that the Planning & Zoning Committee had plowed through a week earlier it turned out would not be heard by the Historic Preservation Review Board until September.  Since plans we viewed in July could be changed by September, about half the HP cases were deferred to September.  (That included the condo project for 900 11th Street SE.)

All of the HP and zoning cases that remained on the Agenda were approved.  The most hotly debated was the zoning case for &pizza to locate at 405 8th Street SE.  After several motions and lots of discussion, it was approved by a vote of 6-4.  I voted in opposition because–bottom line–I do not think any management scheme attached to a BZA order will change the negative impact of another fast food operation on this block.

Under the Transportation Committee section of the agenda, the Commission voted 10-0 to send letters to DDOT (asking for an extension of the comment period of the moveDC draft and to hurry up with a traffic calming request for the 300 block of 8th Street SE); to DC Water about its plans to replace a water main on 17th Street SE that will further delay implementation of the pedestrian safety changes to that street; to MPD (asking for an update on a suggested Stop Sign camera at the north 8th & D SE intersection); and a Resolution (to WMATA) on Metrobus plans to eliminate some stops along the 30’s bus line.

I also announced during the Transportation portion of the meeting that the ANC will be holding a Community Meeting on the SE Boulevard planning study now underway in conjunction with the Office of Planning and DDOT; the date will most likely be Monday August 4th but an official announcement will be sent out with the details.  Meanwhile, you can check the Transportation Committee’s July Report for details on the study.

Other approvals, all with 10-0 votes: (1) Testimony before the Council’s Committee on Human Services on a Sense of the Council for Closing DC General Shelter Resolution of 2014 (PR20-845); and (2) a letter to DGS requesting a market study in support of Eastern Market’s business planning efforts. And, (3) the ANC’s April-June 2014 Quarterly Financial Activity Report.

The Treasurer also prepared a “burn rate” by Quarter of our financial situation.  Since the renovation of the Hill Center, the ANC has been paying both office rent and for the services of our (excellent) parttime executive director.  In anticipation of this situation, the ANC many years ago conducted a savings campaign.  Since we moved back into the Center, we have had to spend some of that savings to cover our monthly costs.  As part of the negotiations on the Hine project, the developers are obliged to give ANC6B reduced rate office space.  But, given the delay in getting that project even started, that space won’t be available for several years.  Our burn rate suggests that we cannot afford both an office and staff beyond the 3rd Quarter of 2015.  The ANC has to have office space within its borders and CM Wells’ office is checking out all DC government properties within 6B where the Commission would be entitled to free office space.

The Commission heard a presentation by Mr. Marc Battle of Pepco about the proposed Exelon-Pepco merger.  Mr. Battle’s bottom line seemed to be that Pepco customers would not “see” any change as the current Pepco entity would continue to operate as is.  A version of the fact sheet handed out at the meeting is available.

Commissioner Pate, chair of the Outreach & Constituent Services Task Force, announced that at the next TF meeting–Wed 16 July, 7pm, Hill Center–the members will discuss and update the 6B Vacant properties list and discuss a planned Fall Public Safety event.

And, then we all went home.  Or, somewhere else.

Norton Meets on CSX VAT. Again.

Congresswoman Norton’s second meeting with the opponents of the CSX Virginia Avenue Tunnel Reconstruction Project on 1/25 started out oddly.  The regular cast of CSX, DC Department of Transportation (DDOT), and Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) officials were all assembled.  But, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was the invited guest to apparently explain the agency’s comments on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) and EPA was a “no show.”  Ms Norton was clearly not pleased as she told the audience (1/2 the number who showed up for the Mayor) of the many conversations between her office and EPA in the last few days.  To no avail.

The meeting–without its intended focus on environmental and health issues–was reduced into one more session with the opponents raising most of the same issues, several times demanding CSX answer Yes or No to questions/comments they posed (as if this was a trial courtroom).  When CSX tried instead to provide complex responses, people in the audience shouted back.  Neither Mr. Michael Hicks of FHWA, the lead agency on the NEPA study, nor Mr. Faisal Hameed of DDOT, fared much better with the crowd.  Some of it of their own making.  Why wasn’t there a clearer explanation of the steps in the NEPA process and of “intermodal container trains” and an explicit comment that while containers can be stacked one on top of the other, tank cars cannot be, and so on …?  The opponents did apparently surprise CSX officials by quoting news articles the officials hadn’t apparently read (see Yorktown, below).  And, Mr. Hicks admitted that he wasn’t aware of an National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) “Safety Recommendation R-14-1 through -3” that came out on 1/23 on rail transport of crude oil in “unit” trains, those with up to 100 tank cars of this single commodity.  That didn’t set well with the crowd since they have been dissecting this document for days.

The opponents won’t believe it but CSX said at the meeting it routed a total of 3 tank cars of crude oil through the VAT (that’s one tank car each in 3 trains among all the trains routed through the tunnel in one year).  CSX said they expect to carry about the same in 2014.  Read the excellent New York Times 1/26 article “Accidents Surge as Oil Industry Takes the Train” and you will discover how complex this emerging national problem is, brought on by the development of new oil fields in the West and production rising faster than crude oil pipelines could be built.

The opponents have newly found information about a Yorktown VA project and apparently assume it proves that CSX was lying about future crude oil shipments through the tunnel.  According to the local Yorktown press, this project is to convert a defunct oil refinery into a crude oil terminal whereby rail shipments of crude can be brought from the West and loaded onto ships for transport to refineries along the East Coast.  It was first proposed in 2012 by new owners of the refinery and at that time Plains All American Pipeline said CSX would be shipping crude to the location by 2013.  CSX said at the meeting that the facility wasn’t yet ready for shipments and, in any case, they plan to route these trains from Chicago south to Yorktown avoiding the District.  (The most recent posting I could find via Google about the status of this Yorktown facility was dated August 2013.)

Another discussion at the meeting was on alternative routing of CSX trains, both temporarily during construction and permanently.  Monte Edwards, a member of the Committee of 100 that submitted lengthy comments on the DEIS on this subject, presented his view that enlarging the tunnel and thus enabling more train traffic to flow through and on the Long Bridge over the Potomac would hinder future expansion of commuter and Amtrak train traffic, which also uses the Long Bridge.  CSX countered that it is the current single track through the tunnel that backs up commuter rail because freight trains have to wait outside the entrance to the tunnel on the west side for  westbound trains coming through the tunnel.  The reconstructed tunnel with two-way tracks will eliminate this problem, say CSX, and the increased height of the new tunnel will allow double stacked container trains, reducing their total number, and thereby reducing  congestion on the Long Bridge.  Edwards also said a comprehensive regional train traffic study should be done before the tunnel is enlarged.  DDOT’s Hameed countered that 3 studies now underway and coordinated within his office would effectively do this.

Ms Norton did shut down a discussion on the complaint about a lack of benefits to DC from this project.  She noted that communities do not individually benefit from rail traffic and shouldn’t expect to do so.  Rail is part of the Nation’s transportation system and the benefits of that accrue to us all.  She also repeated something she said at her 11/25 meeting about how changes in routing will run into serious rejection by affected communities.  Ms Norton noted that she has meetings set up to talk with the Federal Railroad Administration, Homeland Security, and NTSB.  CSX said it will be meeting with Homeland Security to discuss providing the agency with real time information on hazmat moving through the tunnel.

Conclusions: After attending countless number of meetings on the proposed CSX VAT project, starting in 2009 before the NEPA study began in 2011, during the NEPA process, and now in the post-DEIS phase of 3 meetings organized by opponents to the project hosted by public officials, I conclude that the subject matter has now been so muddled, the opponents so radicalized, and their distrust of project proponents and study leadership so heightened that the Final EIS–no matter what it says–will be “dead upon arrival.”  (At the Norton meeting, opponents were already asking for a “supplemental” FEIS.)  Of course, if the FEIS chooses the temporary rerouting option and/or bans hazmat transport during construction, then a portion of the opponents might be happy.  But, if it doesn’t choose the No Build option, than those proponents among the opponents will be up in arms.  And, in the larger picture of things, those who are in this fight to ban all hazmat (rail) shipments through DC, won’t be happy until that occurs.  (The last time DC tried this, I think, the commerce cause of the U.S. Constitution got in the way.)  And, to raise this to a higher level yet, there are those who want to get rid of the rail tracks all together.  Period.  This is a superb urban planning option for DC except for the fact that the tracks need to go somewhere, through some community.  (I, for one, would like to get rid of the elevated I-695 Freeway in the name of urban planning but I am not going to hold my breath on that one.)

I think all that can possibly be said about this proposed tunnel reconstruction is out there in the public domain.  My hope is that the FEIS is released before we have anymore public meetings hosted by political leaders.  DDOT/FHWA would only say, when Ms Norton asked about timing of its release, that they are “still working on the FEIS”.  Maybe they should wait to release the document on April 2 when the first phase of the 2014 DC election campaign season will be over.
 

CSX VAT Opposition Misinforms?

There are many reasons to have major concerns about the proposed project to rebuild the CSX Rail Virginia Avenue Tunnel: the social, economic, and health impacts of a huge construction project at the edge of a swatch of residential neighborhoods, businesses, and recreational areas.  ANC6B voiced its concerns, sought remedies, and requested compensating benefits in its letter in response to the NEPA draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) released last year.  Many other government agencies, organizations, and individuals did the same.  We await the release of a Final EIS in which the DC Department of Transportation (DDOT) and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) will put forward a “preferred alternative”.  This could be the one of the 3 proposed build alternatives or the no-build alternative in the DEIS … or a hybrid approach.

Meanwhile, a group is working in opposition on the outside of this formal study process.  In promoting a 1/16 community meeting with Mayor Gray, the group raised the following concerns: “presence of 8,000 square feet of asbestos, hazardous materials transport and risk of derailment similar to Willard Ohio and Casselton North Dakota, more than five-fold increase in permanent structural vibration to area buildings, potential for stalled development during the projected 4-6 year construction time frame, and disruptive traffic congestion and closure of area streets and highway ramps.” I respond to all but one of these claims below.  But, I do not understand their mention of a five-fold increase in building vibration once the tunnel is rebuilt.  The data source could be in the DEIS Appendix F: Vibration Technical Report.

The group doesn’t make it clear what their aim is in raising these and other concerns.   Is it to: (1) stop the project from going forward, (2) force the adoption of one of the alternatives removed from consideration earlier in the study, or (3) what?  And, if they don’t get whatever it is they want, will they file a suit against the study’s conclusions, dragging out this multi-year study process for a couple of more years?  (Shades of Hine!)  Meanwhile, development in a part of ANC6B–the Lower 8th–continues to languish, awaiting the final decision on the tunnel project.  West of the Lower 8th, though, where most of the opposition resides, a continuing fast pace of development is predicted by the Capitol Riverfront BID Annual Report 2013.

This is not to say that those stridently opposed to the project don’t have a right to conduct a politicized campaign.  It’s quite understandable as some live on the “front lines” of this project.  But, I don’t have to agree with the way they are using and perpetuating misinformation about what we know about the project.  The effect of this tactic was all too clear at the Mayor Gray meeting on 1/16.  One woman there feared she would end up with lung disease because the tunnel may have asbestos that needs to be removed.  Another was quite anxious that emergency services she needs to call on for her special needs child would be blocked from getting to her house (“everything will be blocked off!!”).  Where do people get these ideas?   Why has no one explained that removal of asbestos has a proscribed protocol these days to prevent impacts to both those doing the work and anyone nearby.  And, what causes people to believe that the city would let CSX block emergency services during the project?  I fault the opponents.  Isn’t it possible to fight a good fight without whipping people up into a frenzy?

Does the DEIS say traffic will be disrupted?  Yes.  Does the study propose a plan to mitigate that disruption?  Yes.  Is it perfect? No.  But, aside from 2nd Street, all north/south crossings of Virginia Avenue will remain open during construction.  Will these streets be closed occasionally and for short periods of time?  Yes.  Will the I-695 exit ramp at 6th Street and on ramp at 8th Street be closed for the duration?  No.  Will each have to be closed for a short time while decking is installed at these intersections with Virginia Avenue?  Yes.  Does the DEIS show special lanes to be set up to provide continuing access for residences and businesses in close proximity to the construction area?  Yes.

Clarity on the Proposed Alternatives

Another bit of misinformation heard repeated at the 1/16 meeting (and earlier at the Congresswoman Norton meeting in November) is that all proposed build alternatives involve train service running through an open trench during construction.  Not (exactly) True.  While all 3 involve open trench construction, in 1 of the 3 alternatives, trains would operate along (all but 230 feet of track) in an enclosed tunnel during construction. Estimated project duration for this alternative is 2.5 to 3.5 years.  But, opponents argue against this alternative because of those 230 feet of open trench train operation.  ANC6B in its letter on the DEIS did not choose among the alternatives, realizing that all 3 build alternatives involve tradeoffs.  Instead, we noted the pros and cons of each alternative and asked for a hybrid.  The opponents claim that an alternative during which train traffic is rerouted elsewhere in the mid-Atlantic region during construction would result in a quicker reconstruction.  In a technical document, the DEIS estimates this alternative would take 2.5 years for construction but the start of the project would be delayed for months to set up all the routing agreements.  The DEIS also details complexities of rerouting freight trains along specific routes and the impacts through other communities that rerouting might cause.  There’s a bit of NIMBY-ism in this one, I think.

Hazardous Materials

Wrapped up in the concerns about the problems of trains running through an open trench, is the issue of hazardous materials transported by CSX.  This issue has long predated the discussions about rebuilding the tunnel.  And, like many controversies of this nature, I doubt it will be settled by this study.  Considerable hazardous materials transportation occurs in the open today in the project area. A portion of the CSX route through DC is above ground and will remain so whether or not the tunnel is reconstructed.  And, trucks carry unknown quantities of hazardous materials along I-695 (parallel to Virginia Avenue) since it is the designated route for all hazardous materials road transport through DC.  Nationally, by the way, trucks carried 53.9 percent of hazardous material shipments by ton in 2007 while rail carried 5.8 percent. The alarms being raised on hazardous materials are diverting attention away from other more probable problems an open trench might cause.  And, I repeat: one proposed DIES alternative does not involve running trains through an open trench during construction.

Rail Accidents

It is highly unlikely that a “derailment similar to Casselton ND” could occur along Virginia Avenue since CSX does not haul single commodity tank car trains through this area like the one that caused that accident.  For hazardous materials transport to be a serious problem, one should ask: Is CSX accident prone?  Data from the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) don’t appear to say so.  In 2012, CSX reported 221 accidents or 10.6 percent of the total number of accidents by all freight and passenger railroads.  (That’s a list of 36 railroads plus an “Other” category that had 284 accidents in 2012.)  Among the 5 major U.S. freight railroads (as defined by the American Association of Railroads), CSX stacks up as third in number of accidents behind Burlington Northern Santa Fe (428) and Union Pacific (564).  Norfolk Southern comes in at (191) and Kansas City Southern (37).  But, counts alone are not good for comparisons. Accident numbers need to be normalized in some way to account for differences in operations.  FRA converts the data into ‘accidents/1 million train miles’ for each railroad.  Here’s how the 5 line up: Norfolk Southern (2.02), CSX (2.12), BNSF (2.18), Kansas City (2.99), Union Pacific (3.06).  [It should be noted that railroad accident statistics can be quite complicated to work with as there are many variables and caveats. None of the data here, for instance, include accidents at highway crossings.]

Accidents Involving Hazardous Materials

Of CSX’s 216 accidents in 2012, two resulted in the release of hazardous materials from 2 cars and caused the evacuation of 106 persons.  Two comparisons: Norfolk Southern had 2 hazardous materials releasing accidents in 2012; they involved 4 cars and 154 persons were evacuated.  The same year, Union Pacific had 6 such accidents involving 9 cars in which 3 persons were evacuated.  More data: Between 2005 and 2012, CSX has reported 8 train accidents in DC, none of which involved hazardous materials releases.  CSX did have a train derailment in a rail yard near Baltimore in 2013 that involved the release of hazardous materials; 24 persons were evacuated.

Benefits

One good point that arose at the Mayor’s 1/16 meeting is burdens vs. benefits.  Specifically, what will the neighborhood and DC benefit from enduring the burden of the disruptions of this construction project for a number of years?  It’s not like construction of the Metro that ended up providing transit service throughout the region.  ANC6B and others have been advocating for a linear park with a pedestrian and bike path stretching from Garfield Park at 3rd Street along Virginia Avenue all the way to 11th Street and beyond.  Included in this request is a major redesign of Virginia Avenue Park.  But, is a linear park that will revitalize a lifeless space and serve all residents both north and south of the Freeway enough?  Is it possible to equalize burdens and benefits?  The community has already been tapping into CSX pockets for a fenced in dog area in Virginia Avenue Park, a new roof for the St. Paul AUMP Church, support for summer concerts at The Yards Park, and so on.  What more could/should we ask for?

This project is so complex with any number of interrelated impacts: noise, vibration, air pollution, traffic, and even rats.  It can be hard to grasp it all.  And, it certainly cannot be explained in sound bites.  Read through comments on the DEIS submitted by many agencies and organizations and you will find an amazing overlapping of concerns and questions.  In addition, there are some unique issues being raised, given the varied expertise of commentators.  All of these are excellent contributions toward making the FEIS a major improvement over the DEIS.  In the end, the FEIS may improve our comfort level about this project but it will never satisfy everyone.  It might help alleviate some concerns, though, if DDOT and FHWA more thoroughly explain the pros and cons of a temporary reroute option that was taken ‘off the table’ in the DEIS.  And, greater protections for seniors living in the Arthur Capper apartments may need to evolve from the FEIS.

Data References (the old-fashioned way in case the links change).  The “home” of Federal rail statistics is at the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) Office of Safety Analysis.  There you can make hundreds of different queries, slicing data this way and that.  I found, however, that different queries for the same bit of data do not always generate the same number.

  • (2012 accident data): U.S. Department of Transportation DOT), FRA, Railroad Safety Statistics, 2012 Preliminary Annual Report, October 24, 2013, Table 5-1. Available at http://safetydata.fra.dot.gov/OfficeofSafety/publicsite/Prelim.aspx
  • (accidents/1 million train miles) USDOT, FRA, Office of Safety Analysis, 1.03 Overview Charts by Railroad.
  • (hazardous materials accidents) USDOT, FRA, Office of Safety Analysis, 1.01 Accident/Incident Overview.
  • (Accidents in DC) USDOT, FRA, Office of Safety Analysis, 1.05 Accident/Incident Overview Charts by State.
  • (National Hazardous Materials Shipments) USDOT, RITA/Bureau of Transportation Statistics, Special Report: Hazardous Materials Highlights—2007 Commodity Flow Survey.
  • American Association of Railroads, North American Freight Statistics, April 17, 2013, page 2.  Available at https://www.aar.org/StatisticsAndPublications/Documents/AAR-Stats-2013-07-09.pdf

 

DDOT’s Barney Circle & SE Boulevard: Is This What We Want?

At the January 14, 2014, meeting of ANC6B, the Commission voted 10-0 to send a letter to DDOT outlining its concerns about plans announced by DDOT on November 21, 2013, under its Barney Circle & SE Boulevard Transportation Study.  Here is the ANC’s 10-page letter:

01-14 DDOT – 2nd Public Mtg of Barney Circle & SE Blvd Transportation Planning Study

For those in a hurry, here is an except from page one:

In summary, the Commission:

  • rejects DDOT’s proposed 4-lane SE Boulevard with parking lots and no connections to the existing street grid,
  • opposes the inclusion of a multi-modal parking facility in any form,
  • opposes Barney Circle Option 2 and has concerns about many aspects of Barney Circle Option 1, feels the study suffers from a lack of neighborhood planning and involvement by DDOT with its AWI partners the DC Office of Planning, the Deputy Mayor for Planning & Economic Development, and the DC Department of the Environment; and
  • questions the sufficiency of DDOT’s traffic planning scope and assumptions.

“These positions are discussed more fully [in the rest of the letter] and lead ANC6B to the following conclusions in keeping with the Anacostia Waterfront Initiative (AWI) goal to ‘redesign highways and freeways to reduce barriers between neighborhoods and waterfront parks.’

  • If a road is to be built to replace the SE/SW Freeway, then the best option may be a two-way street fully connected to the grid, along with a pedestrian and bicycle bridge, that opens up the possibility of using the balance of the land for recreation and economic development; and
  • Barney Circle should be designed to accommodate the decision on whether or not there is a direct road connection to 11th Street and what type of road that will be and in ways that directs commuter traffic to appropriate arterials while protecting residential streets from cut-through traffic.”

DDOT’s presentation of November 21 is on the AWI website.  And, I discussed the previous DDOT presentation on this study of February 2013 back in March under the title “If you Build a Road, Who will Come?”

11th Street Bridges Project Revealed!

Curious about what’s going on down at M and 11th Street SE?
Darn tired of all the Detours?
Want to know how this project will improve your movements across and onto/off the Hill?
Concerned about commuter traffic cutting through neighborhoods?
Wonder about those “Overlooks”?

Here is your opportunity to get all your questions answered and your curiosity sated: Wed 5 June, 7pm, National Community Church, 535 8th Street SE

That’s when you can hear a presentation by DDOT and Bridge Officials on the background, current status, and future plans for the trio of bridges, the building of which has been underway since 2009.  The 2 freeway bridges linking I-695 with I-295 are completed; the Local bridge that connects Capitol Hill and Anacostia is almost completed.  But, not all of the connections to the connections have been built, especially on the Capitol Hill side of the river.  An old “outbound freeway” has almost been demolished, while a new one is rising.  An on ramp at 11th Street for westbound traffic is open; a off ramp onto 11th Street for eastbound traffic is being built.  And, that 8th Street eastbound on ramp that was closed a few months ago?  A new one will be created over the next months.

There will be a sign up sheet at the meeting for those who wish to take a future tour of the project.

This presentation and the Q&A to follow is the major part of the ANC6B’s June Transportation Committee meeting.  Other committee matters will be taken care of from 630pm to 7pm on 5 June.  This will include a letter to DDOT on the results of the 2nd meeting of the Pennsylvania and Potomac Avenues Intersections Pedestrian Safety Study.