Upcoming construction on I, 21st and 22nd streets NW will ease pedestrian traffic on the busy road over the next several years, officials said.
Boston Properties, a development company paying for the changes, is working with the District Department of Transportation to add crosswalks, wheelchair accessibility ramps and streetlights at the intersection in front of Whole Foods and install a traffic light at 21st and I streets – a plan first introduced last fall. Jake Stroman, the vice president of development at Boston Properties, said he is working with DDOT to finalize plans for the intersection in the next four to five weeks so they can begin construction.
“It was raised as something that’s a necessity to the neighborhood and our goal is to try to be a pretty good neighborhood partner,” Stroman said.
He said that the intersection at 22nd and I streets is notorious for safety problems. DDOT officials posed the street renovation ideas during Boston Properties’ planning process for renovations to the 2100 Pennsylvania Ave. complex, he said.
A spokesperson for DDOT did not return multiple requests for comment. Stroman said the improvements to the heavily trafficked intersection will alleviate pedestrian confusion about which side of the street they can use to cross.
“For people and drivers, it will be a better situation,” he said.
Stroman added that officials most likely will not start construction on a light at 21st and I streets until 2019, and will not likely finish until 2021 because of the multiple phases of approval required for the project.
Junior and Foggy Bottom and West End Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner James Harnett said the redevelopment plan for the 2100 Pennsylvania Ave. building did not originally include the intersection’s redevelopment. The plans for the intersection were officially submitted last fall as part of a planned unit development – or a redevelopment project with a specific plan attached to it – agreed upon between D.C. government agencies and the ANC.
He said the intersection is “wonky” because sometimes pedestrians will have a stoplight, but no cars have a green light, or they’ll have a “delayed green.”
He said he hopes the project will improve the accessibility of the intersection because when the street was originally developed, it had not been made to hold up to standards of the Americans with Disabilities Act – a set of regulations passed in 1990 to prevent discrimination against people with disabilities – because there are no wheelchair-accessible dips at the ends of the crosswalks.
“Because of that, that means people in wheelchairs, people who have accessibility needs, can’t cross that street,” he said.
Harnett said that although the project is expected to be completed sometime before the end of 2019, it could be pushed back because of the phases of approval needed for the project.
He said a similar series of events occurred after officials proposed plans to install a new crosswalk on the 2100 block of H Street in May. The crosswalk was initially scheduled to be completed over the summer but is still currently under construction.
“I think at the end of the day, the fact that we’re working on this and that it is a priority for us underscores my commitment and the other commissioners’ commitments to addressing pedestrian safety concerns,” he said.
Harnett added that the current four-way crosswalk at 21st and I streets is also confusing because in one direction, cars don’t legally have to stop until the pedestrian stops in the crosswalk, but the perpendicular lane of traffic has to stop no matter what. He said these directions are noted on signs for cars that pedestrians often don’t see because it’s not in their line of sight.
Marina Streznewski, the president of the Foggy Bottom Association, said the traffic light at 21st and I streets will create a safer environment at the intersection after new retail shops are added to the rehabilitated building on Pennsylvania Avenue.
“I don’t know why there wasn’t a light at that intersection a long time ago,” she said.
This article appeared in the October 15, 2018 issue of the Hatchet.