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 email@example.com. You can also join the project e-mail list by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org 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).