DDOT Projects Update in Ward 7

A resident (foreground) talks to a DDOT representative before the November 17 Project Update meeting. Photo: Charnice A. Milton

On November 17, representatives from the DC Department of Transportation (DDOT) met with the Ward 7 community to update them on upcoming projects. This is the third in a series of meetings in every Ward. “Public involvement is key to everything DDOT does,” said DDOT Information Specialist Brandon Cooper. “We wanted to make sure we come to the community regularly, update them on the projects and take any feedback questions or comments on what we're doing and how we can work better towards our mutual goal improving transportation in the District.” With a crowd at Pennsylvania Avenue Baptist Church, which included students from the Cesar Chavez Public Charter School for Public Policy, many question whether DDOT could do more to improve communication with the community.

moveDC

moveDC is DDOT's federally-mandated long-term strategic vision plan, its first since 1997. Through this plan, DDOT also completed a long-range study analysis to create a local transportation plan, similar to those in other major cities. Colleen Hawkinson, DDOT's Strategic Planning Branch Manager, stated that DDOT stayed engaged with residents throughout the 18 month study, holding multiple workshops attended by over 1,000 people and communicating through social media and the moveDC website. “The goals of moveDC, as well as the vision, were developed with input from the community,” Hawkinson said. “So we started with that foundation of the needs and desires of what the public wanted to see.” The plan was released on October 21, while a two-year action plan, which outlines the next steps, is available online (wemovedc.org/resources/Final/ActionPlan.pdf).

Benning Road

Beginning earlier this spring, DDOT is reconstructing a two-mile corridor of Benning Road, which includes roadway, bridges, and two Metro stations (Benning Road and Minnesota Avenue).  The project will not only improve roadway conditions, but also provide multi-modal safety and more transit options with the upcoming streetcars. After holding two public meetings in April and May, DDOT will schedule a public hearing soon.

DC PLUG

A partnership between DC Government and Pepco, the DC Power Line Undergrounding (DC PLUG) project aims to increase the reliability of the DC power system and underground 21 poorly performing primary electrical feeders. The project,  which affects five Wards, was approved in November and is currently finalizing its design. Construction should begin in the spring. 

11th Street Bridge

The 11th Street Bridge project, which began construction in 2009, is DDOT's largest to date. According to Anacostia Waterfront Initiative (AWI) Project Manager Joseph Dorsey, the project is “approximately 94 percent complete,” with the goal of reopening Southeast Boulevard to Barney Circle by this month. “What that would do is alleviate a lot of traffic for, mainly, residents and constituents of Ward 7,” Dorsey explained. The project is scheduled to finish by September 2015.

Parkside Pedestrian Bridge

Spanning the width of DC 295, the Parkside Pedestrian Bridge hopes to bring provide better access to the Minnesota Avenue Metro Station and provide a safer alternative to the current bridge by making it well-lit and accessible. DDOT plans to advertise for contractor bids this winter with the hope of issuing a notice to proceed in the spring.

South Capitol Street Corridor 

While the South Capitol Street Corridor project is not located in Ward 7, its close proximity to the Ward would affect residents' commutes. Another AWI project, it is separated into two phases. Currently, the project is in its first phase, which includes replacing the aging Fredrick Douglas Bridge and reconstructing the I-295 Suitland Parkway Interchange. The second phase includes building a new interchange between Suitland Parkway and Martin Luther King, Jr. Avenue, transforming South Capitol Street into “a grand urban boulevard,” and improvements on New Jersey Avenue. Currently, DDOT is looking at a short list of potential developers; the project is scheduled to finish by 2019.

Anacostia Riverwalk Trail – Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens Segment

Currently under construction, the Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens Segment of the Anacostia Riverwalk Trail would bring a “missing link” between Benning Road and Bladensburg Waterfront Park. The segment is scheduled to open in the spring of 2016. 

Minnesota Avenue 

Originally affecting a large portion of Minnesota Avenue (between A and 34th Streets), the long-awaited  revitalization project was split into two phases to better prepare for the nearby streetcar line. The meeting focused on the first phase, which will affect the portion located between A Street and 300 feet south of Benning Road. DDOT is currently advertising the project for construction, focusing on benefits including traffic signal upgrades, new sidewalks and improved streetscapes. 

Six Bridges Over Watts Branch

This series of construction projects focuses on bridges located at 48th Place, 55th Street, Gault Place, 58th Street, Division Avenue and 44th Street. While some require a full rehabilitation, others require minor repairs. For instance, both Gault and 58th are closed because both require total replacement. Construction began in May and should end by January 2015.

49th Street and Sheriff Road 

Beginning in October, the 49th Street Traffic Calming and Sheriff Road Safety Improvements Projects will implement “gentle speed bumps” and other low impact measures to help slow traffic along the two roads; the latter will focus on a portion of Sheriff Road located between 43rd Place and 52nd Street. Weather permitting, both projects are scheduled to end in February 2015. 

Pennsylvania Avenue and 27th Street 

“We end up getting many of the projects we completed, having to go back and look at them over and over again,” James Cheeks of DDOT's Traffic Operation Administration explained; that was the case for the Pennsylvania Avenue and 27th Street redesign project. The redesign, which should be completed by the second quarter of 2015, aims to make the area more accessible for residents.

Traffic Light Synchronization

The Traffic Light Synchronization Initiative is a program that aims to sync the city's four networks of traffic signals. In April, DDOT completed optimization work in Wards 6 (specifically around Nationals Stadium), 7, and 8, which affects 203 signals. The optimization process included identifying bottleneck areas, as well as developing and implementing new timing plans. As a result, DDOT claims that the project saved 30 percent of  overall travel time, reduced delays by 34 percent and reduced the percentage of late buses from 17 to 10 percent. The project also updated the pedestrian clearance interface for all signals to comply with the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices; this ensures that improved signal timing helps pedestrians safely cross the street.

Green Infrastructure and Low Impact Development

Many of DDOT's major projects, including the 11th Street Bridge and Minnesota Avenue, are utilizing green infrastructure (GI) and low impact development (LID) to reduce stormwater runoff. Some examples of GI practices include using permeable pavement, biorentention (rain gardens), improving tree space design and reducing paving. Also, DDOT is completing retrofit projects, including green alleys, with the goal of reducing stormwater and released its Green Infrastructure Standards. 

DDOT has three Ward 7-specific projects focused on stormwater management. The first, a bioretention project located on Fitch Place, finished its design phase and is scheduled to begin construction in spring 2015. DDOT is also planning to narrow the intersection of Fort Dupont and Q Streets as a traffic-calming and stormwater capturing measure; it is currently under the design phase and construction is scheduled to start in the summer. Finally, DDOT will partner with the DC Department of the Environment (DDOE) on the Alger Park LID; this project will help control stormwater and improve the stream there. 

Streetlight Upgrades

In July, DDOT completed upgrading the streetlight system on Branch Avenue, specifically between Randle Circle and Pennsylvania Avenue. By replacing HPS fixtures with LED lights, the streetlights now provide better lighting while lowering energy costs. DDOT also upgraded streetlights on Clay Street, 49th Place, Croffut Place, and Carpenter Street after receiving calls through 311 and patrolling the streets. Finally, DDOT announced a new design project for upgrading streetlights located on East Capitol Street (between 40th and 53rd Streets).

Community Concerns 

While many residents participated in the Q&A session after the meeting, not everyone felt that their questions were answered. “I expected to get more answers,” said Deborah Jones, Executive Director of the Ward 7 Business Partnership. “I think a lot of the answers were more generic.” Others, like ANC Commissioner Antawan Holmes (7C07), thought the meeting could be better organized. “I expected a concise presentation about all of the projects in Ward 7; although, the reality is that a lot of other different topics let it get out of scope,” he said. “Hopefully, they will have another one that's a little more defined and definite...You can tell that the people in the room were very concerned about Ward 7-specific issues...not the 11th Street Bridge, things that were more local, not large projects.” 

For more information on current and upcoming DDOT projects, visit ddot.dc.gov or call 202-671-2800.


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