ANC votes to install street, sidewalk improvements on Pennsylvania Avenue

Media Credit: Grace Hromin | Assistant Photo Editor

Leblanc said physical construction will last 18 to 24 months after starting in 2022, but commissioners said DDOT needs to take immediate action to enhance safety and prevent potential accidents between drivers and cyclists.

A local governing body voted at a meeting Wednesday to “immediately” renovate street and sidewalk space along Pennsylvania Avenue near campus.

The Foggy Bottom and West End Advisory Neighborhood Commission passed a resolution requesting the D.C. Department of Transportation to accelerate plans to redesign the streetscape with bike lanes, expanded sidewalks, plants and benches. DDOT’s current plans target the project to launch in 2022, but the commission pressed officials to “immediately” install temporary improvements to enhance safety in the area before official construction begins.

Here are the meeting’s highlights:

Pennsylvania Avenue West Streetscape Project
Karyn Leblanc, a member of DDOT’s consulting team, presented the agency’s design plans, which are 65 percent complete, and said the project will run from 17th Street near the White House to Washington Circle. She said the renovations will shorten street width, keep intersections safe, reduce crosswalk distances and furnish sidewalks with trees, bike lanes and seating along Pennsylvania Avenue.

Leblanc said physical construction will last 18 to 24 months after starting in 2022, but commissioners said DDOT needs to take immediate action to enhance safety and prevent potential accidents between drivers and cyclists. The ANC voiced support for the streetscape project last year, but they requested DDOT take further action to address street safety concerns after two people were killed and one was injured when a car ran over a curb and crashed outside 2000 Penn last year.

Commissioners urged officials at a meeting last July to widen and raise bike lanes to better protect cyclists along the corridor often congested with traffic.

This week, senior and ANC Chair James Harnett thanked DDOT officials for responding to the commission’s requests from last year, as officials expanded the bike lanes from six to seven feet and agreed to elevate lanes on the 1700 and 1900 blocks along the street in their design plans. Leblanc said the agency also added small traffic islands as buffers between parking spaces and a parking garage on the 1900 block – another request officials received from community members.

“We support immediately implementing temporary measures through notice of intent that would create many of the conditions that are being called for in this project sooner than 2022,” Harnett said. “That’s precisely what we asked for last year back when two individuals were killed in James Monroe Park along Pennsylvania Avenue.”

DDOT officials held a series of public meetings about the project’s plans with neighborhood leaders last year, where community members suggested replacing parking spaces with loading and rideshare vehicle zones and improving sidewalk amenities.

Leblanc said the agency has since edited design plans to accommodate these requests and said the plans will include benches, bike racks, outdoor seating for businesses, dockless vehicle parking, gatherings space and “public art podiums.” She said officials also limited street parking to the 1700, 1900 and 2100 blocks to clear space for loading areas and rideshare vehicles.

“As with any DDOT project, public participation and feedback is important,” Leblanc said.

Kennedy named temporary vice chair
The ANC named Commissioner Patrick Kennedy as vice chair for the remainder of this year’s term after Kennedy previously stepped down as chair in June. Kennedy has not filed for re-election, according to the city’s list of ANC candidates.

Commissioner Nicole Goldin, the ANC’s secretary, also announced she will not run for re-election in the fall.

Founding Farmers outdoor seating
Commissioners approved a public space application from Founding Farmers, which requested to continue using an “unenclosed sidewalk cafe” for customers to eat more safely during the COVID-19 pandemic. Studies show that people are less likely to spread the virus outdoors versus indoors.

The space will include 86 seats and 24 tables in front of the location near Washington Circle, according to the ANC’s meeting agenda.

Harnett said he’s walked by the restaurant’s outdoor seating area and thinks the space will keep customers safer amid the pandemic.

“I’m very excited by both the health piece of making sure that we can keep folks safe because the science is so clear that outdoor dining is much safer than indoor dining during the pandemic,” he said.

2100 Pennsylvania Ave. construction permit
The ANC extended an after-hours construction permit for Boston Properties, the company redeveloping 2100 Penn and spearheading multiple neighborhood improvement projects at two I Street intersections and Reservation 28. Sean Sullivan, the vice president for development at Boston Properties, said D.C. Water has been “backlogged” with utility inspection requests and inspected the wrong spot at the construction site a few weeks ago, delaying the construction process at 2100 Penn.

He said the company is “hopeful” to complete after-hours construction before its current permit expires at the end of the month, but officials submitted the request in case the company needs extra time in case the project is further delayed.

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