A project designed to transform a stretch of Pennsylvania Avenue near campus will move forward after a planning study determined the redesign would benefit travel in the area.
The D.C. Department of Transportation presented its plans to revamp Pennsylvania Avenue between Washington Circle and 17th Street by adding a bicycle track, widening sidewalks and planting a double row of trees. At a meeting in Funger Hall Thursday night, a city official said the plan would improve the often clogged streets for cyclists, pedestrians and buses near campus.
Under the proposal, H Street would also be redesigned between 13th and 19th streets to add a contra-flow bus lane, where buses would travel against traffic, Megan Kanagay, a DDOT transportation planner, said during a presentation at the meeting.
The study conducted over the last year examined several different options for reworking lanes on both streets and analyzed how the redesign would impact pedestrian and cyclist safety and travel times. The project would slash travel times along H and I streets where more than 60,000 bus riders travel every day, Kanagay said.
She said the remodeling of Pennsylvania Avenue could allow the city to make better use of pedestrian space and “add new life” to the street.
“I think that Pennsylvania Avenue fills a really clear gap in the bike network,” Kanagay said referring to a a lack of bicycle lanes Foggy Bottom area.
Currently, there are no designated bike facilities west of the White House and south of the L and M Street cycle track, according to a poster displayed at the meeting.
Because the proposed contra-flow bus lane would be the first in D.C., the department plans to contact other cities that have launched similar projects to see how the new lanes were implemented, Kanagay said. She added that DDOT will also discuss the plans with different companies and organizations that frequently use the space like Uber and the Secret Service.
DDOT launched the study last April to determine the feasibility of installing the bus and bike lanes. Pennsylvania Avenue was identified as a high-volume bicycling traffic area in a 2013 study by moveDC, the District’s transportation plan.
Both projects will now move to a preliminary engineering phase, where DDOT will look at other impacts of the project including how construction would change the design and atmosphere along Pennsylvania Avenue and where bus routes and stops would be located, including ones currently in use at 21st Street and Pennsylvania Avenue.
Community reaction to the proposal was mixed. Several area residents praised the project’s efforts to provide a designated route for cyclists. Some building and hotel owners told Kanagay that adding a bus lane on H Street would cut off alley ways, driveways and designated valet and parking areas using by their staff, costumers and guests.
Renee Gibbs, the manager of an apartment building at 800 17th St., said she plans to meet with DDOT representatives to discuss how the department would ensure her tenants’ ability to pull out of the parking garage and access a nearby alley.
“It’s a safety concern more than anything else,” she said.
Kanagay encouraged building owners to meet with DDOT to discuss their needs during the preliminary engineering phase.
David Alexander, an appointed member of the D.C. Bicycle Advisory Council, said in an interview that the project could improve safety for cyclists traveling from the east to the west end, an improvement he said is greatly needed.
But Alexander said he is worried that people, particularly Uber drivers, will abuse the extra space set aside for bikes and buses during pick ups and drop offs and suggested DDOT use camera enforcement to prevent misuse of the space.
“Build it, and Uber drivers will come,” he said.