Bike Lanes, Fewer Traffic Lanes, Less Parking Coming To Pennsylvania Ave SE
by Larry Janezich
DDOT is implementing a plan to install a continuous protected bike lane on Pennsylvania Avenue from 2nd Street, SE, to 17th Street at Barney Circle. It will proceed in two phases – beginning in 2022 with completion anticipated in 2024. There are three alternatives being considered, and under the most likely, parking would be banned during peak time and direction, and one of the three traffic lanes would be dedicated to bus traffic.
Once approved, the project will proceed in two phases. Phase I will see the safer separated bike lanes and new traffic patterns installed between 2nd Street and 13th Street on PA Ave, SE, beginning in 2022 with the goal of completion in 2023. Phase II planning and design will kick off in 2022 with installation scheduled for 2023 and 2024, after completion of the redesign of the Pennsylvania Avenue and Potomac Ave intersection.
The project is the outgrowth of the DDOT MoveDC Initiative – the blueprint for how the DC transportation network can support anticipated growth thru 2040 when the number of residents is projected to reach 900,000. The Initiative is being undertaken in connection with Vision Zero, the city’s goal to end traffic fatalities and serious injuries by 2024. One of the effects of the plan will be to encourage the use of bikes and public transportation – and discourage the use of single passenger vehicles. The Washington Area Bicycle Association says that some 5% of District residents commute to work on bikes and that the percentage of riders on Capitol Hill is higher than that – maybe much higher.
COVID disrupted DDOT’s plan to hold an in person public meeting to introduce the concept to the community, so the agency piggy-backed on the July 8 ANC6B Transportation Committee virtual meeting. Project Manager Greg Matlesky discussed the details of the three alternative designs for the project. To see and hear a voice-over of that presentation, go here: https://bit.ly/3gBjNRF
DDOT said it would incorporate feedback from the meeting and comments submitted on its website prior to July 31 into the selection of a preferred alternative by end of summer. That will lead to a preliminary design phase and a second public meeting in late summer or early fall.
DDOT is on the agenda of the virtual meeting of ANC6B’s Transportation Committee next Wednesday, apparently seeking the Committee’s (and subsequently the full ANC’s) endorsement of Alternative A (see below). Information on joining that meeting on-line will be posted Sunday night on Capitol Hill Corner’s feature: The Week Ahead. If recommended by the Committee the full ANC6B will consider the recommendation at its monthly meeting on September 8.
Alternate A – the design endorsed by the Washington Area Bicyclists Association – would provide curbside 5 foot separated bike lanes on both sides of the street, each with a three foot buffer, then a lane for off-peak metered parking which becomes a dedicated bus lane during peak hours, and two traffic lanes. The dedicated bus lane will decrease bus times in the corridor. DDOT says this alternate will impact traffic flow the least.
Alternate B – would provide a 6 foot separated curbside bike lane, a 3 foot buffer, a full time metered parking lane, and two full time traffic lanes. DDOT says under this plan, bus travel times worsen and the largest traffic delay occurs.
Alternate C – provides a 5 foot separated bike lane next to the median, a three foot buffer, metered off- peak parking along the curb which becomes a peak time dedicated bus lane, and two traffic lanes.
One Capitol Hill resident who lives near Independence Avenue and has raised concerns, expressed frustration to CHC about the lack of response from DDOT regarding the impact of the project on the neighborhood. That resident noted the lack of communication and consultation with the community. A virtual presentation to the ANC6B Transportation with minimal attendance is a poor substitute for a well-publicized in-person or even a separate virtual community presentation. The resident notes that all three proposals involve reducing traffic lanes on Pennsylvania Avenue from three to two, and worries that this will divert much evening rush hour traffic through neighborhood streets to Independence Avenue, resulting in backups beyond those which already plague out-bound evening traffic. Traffic in the two traffic lanes in all three scenarios will continue to be slowed by the backup in the median side lane – both in-bound and out-bound – as vehicles back up waiting to turn right or left across the median.
As part of the DDOT presentation to the Transportation Committee though, Matlesky noted that the pandemic has reduced total daily vehicular daily trips by 30 – 60%, and suggested that after the pandemics asides subsides, “we likely won’t see traffic return to pre-Covid levels for quite some time.”
Capitol Hill Corner reached out to Matlesky to ask if any study or thought has been given to where drivers seeking an alternate route to Pennsylvania Avenue might go, but as of press time had not received a response.