Changes to hospital plans rile residents

Several Foggy Bottom residents are angry about changes in hospital construction plans that the city’s Department of Public Works submitted this week.

Members of the Foggy Bottom Association called the DPW report a “turnaround” from earlier testimonies, which they said were more sympathetic to their concerns.

“We are terribly disappointed at DPW’s 180-degree turnaround,” Foggy Bottom Association President Ellie Becker said in a written statement. “The GW solutions accepted by DPW appear shallow . or are virtually unenforceable.”

Becker called the new report “a fairy tale.”

In addition to DPW’s report, the hospital released a report that contains many of the same suggestions. Residents said they feel the suggestions contained in both reports will not solve the problems the new hospital building will pose to residents.

“(The suggestions in this report) don’t rectify the problems as we see them or as the DPW originally saw them,” said Doug Abbey, vice president of the Foggy Bottom Historical District Conservancy, and an FBA member. “These suggestions do not go far enough.”

Ken Laden, DPW administrator for transportation planning, said while the DPW has changed some of its suggestions, he thinks the new suggestions will still rectify some of the problems.

“We have modified our position somewhat but it’s not necessarily a turnaround, but rather an evolution,” Laden said. “The new suggestions don’t completely solve the problems that may arise, but we did mitigate some of the problems. There are no perfect solutions.”

Residents said one of the most obvious changes involves the new building’s loading dock. The original Jan. 5 DPW testimony urged the relocation of the proposed loading dock from 24th Street to 23rd Street to smooth traffic flow.

But the new report suggests other measures to limit the loading dock’s impact on the neighborhood. The report suggests stationing staff on the street to stop traffic and direct trucks when needed, placing warning signs and lights near the loading area, and “recommending, to the greatest extent possible, that deliveries not occur during morning or evening rush hour.”

Becker said she does not see the changes as an effective solution.

“Let’s face it – the loading dock will be less than 50 feet from two houses,” Becker said. “If (the DPW) doesn’t see why it’s offensive, spend a little time on I Street between 22nd and 23rd. And they expect large trucks to maneuver on narrow 24th Street, already overutilized – another fairy tale.”

The suggestions contained in the new report must be reviewed and approved by the city’s Board of Zoning Adjustment before the University can break ground on the new hospital, and residents said they will continue to voice their complaints.

“Rest assured, the residents are not happy, and we will continue to pursue this,” Abbey said.

Amy Pianalto, media relations coordinator for GW Hospital, declined to comment.

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