Random Notes from Beat26

from the June 21 Beat26 Newsletter … what is this?

It’s one of the many sidewalk markings along PA Avenue SE for the Pennsylvania Avenue Streetlight Upgrade Project underway in Fall 2021.

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.

Detour Map for 11th Street SE Closures

For continuing demolition of the last remaining old Freeway flyway of the 11th Street Bridge system, DDOT will be closing 11th Street SE between K and M Streets SE on the weekends of March 22-23 and March 29-30, 2014.  On both weekends, the closure will begin at 7am Saturday and end at 11pm on Sunday.

For a Detour Map, open this file: 11th Street Closures & Detours

 

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.


ANC6B Comments on Barney Circle/SE Boulevard Study

This study has “the potential or improve the circulation of all modes of travel throughout our neighborhoods, expand the availability of green space, and open up to public use an area of the Anacostia Waterfront that has been largely inaccessible for many years” said ANC6B in commenting by letter to the Department of Transportation on the scoping phase of the Barney Circle and Southeast Boulevard Transportation Planning Study.

That said, the letter also outlined concerns about the study and asked for a broadening of the scope.  It focused primarily on the Boulevard, Barney Circle, and an idea floated to place some kind of parking facility for buses below the boulevard.  And, ANC6B asked that the study be guided by 3 principles: protecting residential streets from through traffic, connecting neighborhoods to the waterfront, and adhering to goals in the Sustainable DC Plan.

The ANC6B Letter to DDOT on Barney Circle & SE Boulevard Transportation Planning Study was adopted by a unanimous vote of the Commission on April 9, 2013.

If You Build a Road, Who Will Come?

SUBTITLE: There is No Plan!  Yet.

It is time … for anyone living and working on or traveling through Capitol Hill to get involved in the Barney Circle & Southeast Boulevard Transportation Study.  Results may determine how we and others (in vehicles, on bicycles, via transit, and as pedestrians) change the way we move through the neighborhoods, especially once across the Anacostia River via the Sousa Bridge and the new 11th Street Bridges.

One central question of the study is: What will be the impacts (good and bad) of having or not having a road (the SE Boulevard of this study) that enables traffic (again, vehicles, bicycles, pedestrians, transit …) to flow between 11th Street SE and Barney Circle?  Another important question: What are the impacts (good and bad) of converting the current Barney “Circle” into a proper traffic circle with direct feeds from/onto the proposed boulevard, 17th Street, Kentucky and Pennsylvania Avenues, and possibly Park Road?  A 3rd basic question involves understanding how a revised Barney Circle and a boulevard are related in terms of transportation flow.

And, then, there is the idea to place a “bus terminal/parking lot” under the boulevard.  Does DC need such a facility?  If so, this study has to provide the evidence and rationale for placing it in SE Capitol Hill.  We know that folks in Ivy City are objecting to a proposal for one in their neighborhood and Councilmember-at-Large Vincent Orange issued a press release on February 22 expressing his “joy” at DDOT’s examination of placing one at an “obsolete space of the SW Freeway.”  But, politics should not override careful study.

The Study.  This study is being conducted by DDOT under the rules and format defined by the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA) because federal funds are involved.  The final output of the study will be an Environmental Assessment (EA) that will include a decision on whether and how to proceed.  At this point, the study timetable calls for an EA to be made public by Summer 2013.  Between now and then, there will be at least 2 public meetings as DDOT and its contractor gather and analyze neighborhood information and transportation data and consider public input.

[If you are not familiar with how NEPA governs such studies, read this guide.  In addition to NEPA, DDOT has to conduct a “Section 106” review of any historic properties in the vicinity of the overall study (such as, in the CH Historic District and the proposed Barney Circle Historic District) and make a determination of “adverse impacts” if any.  Here is a link to a citizen guide to Section 106, which is part of the National Historic Preservation Act.]

DDOT held the first public meeting on the study on February 21st.  The intent of this Scoping meeting was to present the basic framework of the study and to gather input from the public as to what people want and don’t want to evolve from the intensive planning process.  To help get the discussions started, DDOT presented 3 basic concepts.  Each concept map had the same ideas for Barney Circle but presented different alignments for the boulevard.

Some residents living just north of the possible route of a boulevard have taken these concepts to be “done deal” plans.  Not true.  Concepts are concepts … discussion provoking ideas.  We have a long way to go before the end of this process.  Here’s what happens over the next 4-6 months (or more): (1) DDOT will present several alternatives at the next public meeting; suggested designs based on what they have heard at and subsequent to the Scoping meeting. (2) Based on public comments on these alternatives, DDOT will release a draft EA for public comment.  (3) A final public meeting will constitute a hearing on the draft EA.  Following this, DDOT will release the Final Document and Decision.

Then and only then, will there be A Plan.

Throughout this highly structured process, anyone can and everyone should continue to provide their ideas and relay their concerns to DDOT.  This input can be done at the public meetings or by sending an email to <barneycircle@prrbiz.com> or directly via the study website on the Meeting 1 Presentation page.  If you want to be on the mailing list to assure you will know when the public meetings are scheduled, send an email to <ddot.awi@dc.gov> or click the link on the study website home page.

ANC6B will be involved in this process throughout.  The Transportation Committee meeting on March 13 had the topic on its agenda.  It heard from 35 or so residents who live east of 11th Street SE and south of Pennsylvania Avenue.  Some appear to have already formed hard decisions on what the study should conclude.

I, for one, am not making any decisions now on where DDOT ought to end up in this study.  I need considerable more data and information and analyses from DDOT.  And, I want to hear from a wide range of residents and businesses on Capitol Hill not just those who will be most directly affected.  I know from experience that these folks tend to have ardent views and their voices can drown out those with different, just as valid, perspectives.  With thoughtful discussion and analysis, we can design a new improved neighborhood out of a complex piece of land.

 

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?