A First Look at Office of Planning’s Three Concepts for Southeast Boulevard
by Larry Janezich
Last night, some 70 residents attended a meeting on the Southeast Neighborhood Planning Study to offer input on three concept designs unveiled by the Office of Planning (OP) for a proposed Southeast Boulevard connecting 11th Street, SE, to Barney Circle.
CM Tommy Wells, who hosted the meeting, told the audience that the original plan for the boulevard designed by DOT traffic engineers had been a disappointment. Wells got the Office of Planning involved to explore opportunities to “knit the community together,” he said.
The three options presented by OP provide three different approaches to doing this, though all have the common feature of connecting the residential area south of Pennsylvania Avenue, SE, to the Anacostia Waterfront. Two of the options would address Capitol Hill’s tour bus problem, providing low visibility below grade parking for buses which now traverse and sometimes park on Capitol Hill streets. The plans for all three options will be available on the Office of Planning’s website on Monday. http://1.usa.gov/1Ar1XWE Contact information for project manager Dan Emerine is on this page and comments may be emailed to him.
The first option would provide a FOUR lane boulevard separated by new townhouses and multifamily housing and provide parking for buses under the boulevard.
The second option would provide a TWO lane boulevard with parking on both sides, and new separated by townhouses and multifamily housing but no parking for buses.
The third option provides a FOUR lane boulevard split around a long park – two lanes on the north and south sides, no additional housing, and bus parking under the park.
One question a resident asked for which no direct answer was provided was why the boulevard is necessary at all. Reasons offered during different portions of the meeting to justify the project included: to accommodate current and future traffic, to provide access to new development on the Anacostia Waterfront, and to provide easy access from Ward 7 to downtown. DDOT was not prepared last night to discuss expected traffic loads for the boulevard or to say how the project would fit into the traffic patterns in neighborhoods to the north.
The designs are preliminary and will be modified by community input. The next step will be for DDOT to undertake a feasibility study to determine which elements of the three plans are actually possible. Some of the issues that will be considered could include changing the classification of the land in question, the cost of the infrastructure, what’s underneath the land, the impact of a four vs. two lanes, bus issues, and the impact on Ward 7.
One theme that emerged at several points during the meeting concerned the heavy hand exercised by DDOT in carrying out its plans; even CM Wells said at one point that his office had not been kept aware of DDOT’s intentions. ANC6B commissioner Brian Pate reinforced that notion, telling CHC that DDOT had not been transparent in relating to either the ANC or the community as it moved ahead with re-opening the Southeast Freeway or with planning the proposed Boulevard.
Asked to react to the proposed concepts, ANC6B Chair Brian Flahaven told CHC: “All the OP concepts are much better than the initial freeway replacing freeway concepts provided by DDOT. All extend the neighborhood grid and connect residents to the Anacostia waterfront. While I appreciate DDOT support and involvement in the OP study, I am concerned that DDOT is not willing to put a timeline on the feasibility study that they say they need to conduct of the OP alternatives. I plan to urge the agency to expedite this additional study.”
A DDOT representative present pledged to meet with ANC6B on a quarterly basis to keep them abreast of the progress on moving to the feasibility study phase for the project.