Opposing DDOT's Reopening of the SE Freeway

At a properly noticed meeting with a quorum present, Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 6B voted 9-0 to send these comments to the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) on its plans to reopen the SE Freeway segment between Barney Circle and 11th Street SE.

The Commission is strongly opposed to DDOT reopening this freeway segment. In fact, we don’t understand why DDOT made a decision to reopen it once it was closed to facilitate 11th Street Bridge project work on Capitol Hill.

ANC 6B has several reasons why the reopening is inadvisable:

  1. Reopening the freeway undermines the planning and transportation studies underway for this area. The Office of Planning, in conjunction with DDOT and the community, is just now finishing recommendations on design concepts for the old freeway space that will extend the neighborhood grid, facilitate pedestrian connections to the Anacostia waterfront and provide a more neighborhood sensitive vehicle connection between Barney Circle and 11th Street. DDOT’s decision to reopen the freeway undermines this study and will continue the decades-long separation between the neighborhood and the waterfront.

  2. Reopening the freeway is a tremendous waste of taxpayer dollars. These dollars could and should be used to fund the final product of the ongoing planning and transportation study.

  3. Reopening the freeway will not relieve traffic congestion. Instead, it will exacerbate traffic issues in our neighborhoods, particularly as the freeway draws more and more commuters off of I-295 and the 11th Street Bridge and onto 17th and 19th Streets and Pennsylvania Avenue SE.

  4. Reopening this limited access freeway will create a constituency for a high speed connection through DC. This is the antithesis of the direction in which the community planning process is moving and, thus, may impact our ability to achieve a more neighborhood friendly alternative.

  5. Reopening the freeway will take the pressure off DDOT to complete the Barney Circle & Southeast Boulevard Transportation Planning Study in a timely fashion. We already suspect that DDOT does not have plans to restart this study until early 2015.

The Commission has been told that political pressure is pushing DDOT to reopen the freeway and that this pressure results from congestion along I-295. Given that one rationale for the 11th Street Bridge project was to keep traffic on I-295 rather than have it cut through the Ward 6 streets, we strongly urge DDOT to spend time and energy to fix the congestion problems on I-295. ANC 6B would fully support such an effort.

ANC 6B seeks timely completion of the Office of Planning Southeast Boulevard Neighborhood Study, followed by incorporation of the study results into a revived DDOT Barney Circle and Southeast Boulevard Transportation Planning Study. Ideally, DDOT’s efforts would be synchronized with completion of the 11th Street Bridge project, so that funds remaining from this project can be applied to the construction of a new boulevard that serves neighborhood transportation needs, reconnects the Capitol Hill neighborhood to the Anacostia Waterfront, and provides green space and amenities for the residents of the City.

Lastly, should DDOT continue its ill-advised plan to reopen the freeway, the Commission wants a commitment for a data collection effort, in conjunction with the above transportation planning study, to analyze the changes in travel patterns and volumes that result.