Pennsylvania-Potomac Avenue Intersection Safety Study Meeting Recap

Meeting attendees discuss potential options for improving safety at the Penn-Potomac intersection.

Meeting attendees discuss potential options for improving safety at the Penn-Potomac intersection.

On Jan. 31, the District Department of Transportation held the first of three scheduled public meetings on the Pennsylvania-Potomac Avenue Intersection Pedestrian Safety Study. The primary goal of the study and project is to enhance pedestrian safety at the intersection.   Around 100 attendees had an opportunity to view a presentation on the study and to  ask questions.

Here are the highlights:

  • Sanjay Kumar of DDOT and Karl Kratzer of consulting firm CH2MHill led the meeting and presentation. DDOT has hired CH2MHill to conduct the Environmental Assessment (EA) and PRR, a public affairs firm, to handle the public relations aspects of the  project. Both CH2MHill and PRR will also be  involved in the Barney Circle-Southeast Boulevard project.
  • Since DDOT is seeking federal funds for the project, the agency must complete an EA. The purpose of the Jan. 31 public meeting, or “scoping meeting,” was to determine the purpose, need and scope of the project. Feedback from the scoping meeting will be used to develop alternatives that will be shared with the public during the next public meeting (spring 2013).
  • After detailing existing problems with the intersection – multiple crosswalk locations that create pedestrian/driver confusion, no direct crosswalks across Penn Ave and the reality of pedestrians crossing PA at unstriped locations – Mr. Kratzer outlined the various concepts DDOT was considering for improving the intersection. The concepts ranged from minimal improvements (improvements to exiting crosswalks, changes to signal timing) to full redesign and reconfiguration of the intersection. The goal of the study is to determine which concept will best accomplish the goal of enhancing pedestrian safety.
  • Mr. Kratzer acknowledged that the Penn-Potomac EA actually began in 2009 but was put on hold due to budget constraints. He said the previously developed 2009 concept of a traffic square is no longer a viable option due to lack of space for bus turns.
  • Two new concepts were shared with the audience (see photos below). Concept 1 would create T-intersections at Penn and Potomac Ave and 14th and Penn Ave. If implemented, Concept 1 would keep the existing three lane configuration on Pennsylvania Avenue but would add a direct crosswalk from the Metro plaza to the southern side of Penn Ave. The portion of Potomac Ave immediately in front of the  Metro entrance would be eliminated under this concept, with the potential for additional public space to be added on both the north and south sides of Penn Ave.
  • Concept 2 would introduce a traffic oval to the existing intersection. Traffic on Pennsylvania Avenue proceed around the oval to continue traveling westbound or eastbound. In addition, traffic would enter the oval at various points, with signals at each end of the oval. A new, long crosswalk would bisect the traffic circle, allowing pedestrians to cross directly from the Metro plaza to the south side of Penn Ave.
  • DDOT and CH2MHill noted that these two concepts were meant to begin the conversation with the community and that they expected changes to both concepts as they received community feedback.
  • During Q&A,  residents voiced concern that Concept 2 would actually bring traffic closer to the residential areas near the Metro plaza. Other residents mentioned the need to consider bike traffic, the potential impact of any new configuration on side streets, improvements to the Metro “Kiss & Ride” area at 14th & G Streets SE and the need to think holistically about how this project interacts with other DDOT projects both on the west and east side of the river. Mr. Kratzer acknowledged all of these concerns and encouraged residents to submit their feedback on comment forms.
  • If you missed the meeting, you can e-mail comments and feedback to pennpotomac@prrbiz.com. You can also join the project e-mail list by e-mailing ddot.awi@dc.gov or calling 202-741-8528.
  • There certainly needs to be significant coordination between both the Penn-Potomac and Barney Circle-SE Boulevard projects. I am pleased that the same team will be working on both projects. The Barney Circle-Southeast Boulevard project scoping meeting is scheduled for Thursday, Feb. 21, 6:30 pm – 8:30 pm at Payne Elementary School (1445 C Street SE). 
Existing conditions at the intersection. You can see the worn pedestrian path in the PA Ave median.

Existing conditions at the intersection. You can see the worn pedestrian path in the PA Ave median.

"Traffic square" concept previously shared in 2009. This concept is no longer on the table.

“Traffic square” concept previously shared in 2009. This concept is no longer on the table.

Concept 1 would create T-intersections at Penn and Potomac Aves. and 14th St. SE

Concept 1 would create T-intersections at Penn and Potomac Aves. and 14th St. SE

Concept 2 would create a traffic oval at the Penn-Potomac intersection.

Concept 2 would create a traffic oval at the Penn-Potomac intersection.

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5 Responses to Pennsylvania-Potomac Avenue Intersection Safety Study Meeting Recap

  1. Maren says:

    For both plans, it looks like there isn’t a direct pedestrian route to the bikeshare station or Harris Teeter from the Metro station. But it looks like both plans will close portions of Potomac Ave. in front of the Metro, so could the bikeshare station be moved there?

    • bflahaven says:

      Thanks for the comment Maren. First, while striped crosswalks do not appear at all crossings in the concept drawings, DDOT staff stated there would be striped crosswalks at all crossings. Second, a couple of residents mentioned the current positioning of the bikeshare station and suggested moving bikeshare to the northern side of Penn Ave or adding a second station.

  2. […] Feb. 21 meeting on the Barney Circle-Southeast Boulevard Transportation Planning Study. As with the Penn-Potomac intersection study, the city is seeking federal funds for the Barney Circle-SE Blvd project and must complete an […]

  3. Anon says:

    Not a fan of either plan for various reasons. In particular I don’t like how they move the bus stops, which can be noisy, directly in front of houses/apartments in the neighborhood. Concept 2 seems pretty extreme and does not have enough crosswalks. Concept 1 does not seem like it will fully meet the traffic needs in the neighborhood.

    Are these the only concepts available? What about just adding a crosswalk where the current desire line is between the bus stops on the south side of Penn and the metro? With all the projects in this neighborhood that currently in-flux, maybe it makes more sense to make firmer decisions on the SE boulevard and Barney Circle before committing to such a dramatic rebuild of this intersection.

  4. […] of Transportation outlining the principles the commission will use to evaluate alternatives for the Pennsylvania Avenue-Potomac Avenue Intersection Pedestrian Safety Study. Thanks to Commissioner Nichole Opkins (6B06) for drafting the […]

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