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?