May 16 Penn-Potomac Meeting Recap

May 19, 2013

The T-Intersection Concept for the Pennsylvania Ave-Potomac Ave Intersection.

On May 16, the District Department of Transportation held its second public meeting on Pennsylvania-Potomac Avenue SE Intersection Pedestrian Safety Study at Payne Elementary School. Here are the highlights:

  • Sanjay Kumar of DDOT and Karl Kratzer of CH2MHill, DDOT’s consultants for the project, opened the meeting with a presentation on the project and the project timeline. The goal of the second public meeting was to present potential design concepts and get community feedback.
  • Kratzer outlined four potential design concepts:
    1. No Build – No changes to the intersection, just adjustments to signal timing.
    2. Mid-Block Crosswalk – A mid-block pedestrian crosswalk would be added between the two existing intersections of Penn Ave SE and Potomac Ave. SE.
    3. T Intersections – The Potomac Ave entrances to Penn Ave SE would be modified to intersect at T configurations. The new intersections would result in additional public space both north and south of Penn Avenue. A mid-block pedestrian crosswalk would be added between the two re-configured intersections. And the southbound approach of 14th Street SE to Penn Ave adjacent to the Potomac Ave Metro station would be closed to traffic and be converted to a new  Kiss and Ride.
    4. Signalized Oval – The intersection would be completely reconstructed into a signalized traffic oval with all approaches to the oval signalized. There would a mid-oval crosswalk installed at 14th Street SE and pedestrian crosswalks installed at each end of the oval.
  • DDOT conducted traffic studies of each design concept based on projected traffic flow in 2040. Concepts 1 (no build) and 2 (mid-block crosswalk) would improve existing conditions for vehicular traffic and would slightly improve conditions for pedestrians. Concepts 3 (T-intersections) and 4 (signalized oval) would minimally degrade intersection conditions for vehicles but would significantly improve conditions for pedestrians.
  • After analyzing the data and considering cost, DDOT has ruled out Concept 4 and will examine concepts 1, 2 and 3 for the remainder of the study.
  • Of the three remaining concepts, my preference is T-intersections, which would do the most to improve pedestrian crossings and safety. I also like the additional public space that would be created around the Potomac Avenue Metro plaza. The other two concepts would really not do near as much to improve pedestrian safety at the intersection.
  • The project’s third public meeting will likely be a public hearing on a draft Environmental Assessment (EA) which will recommend one of the concepts. DDOT anticipates holding this hearing in July.

Please post your comments and questions below.

Summary of design concepts for the DDOT Penn-Potomac Ave Pedestrian Safety Study.

Summary of design concepts for the DDOT Penn-Potomac Ave Pedestrian Safety Study.

Upcoming Meetings: Penn-Potomac, Reservation 13

May 13, 2013

Mark your calendars for two important upcoming meetings:

  • The District Department of Transportation will hold Public Meeting #2 for the Pennsylvania-Potomac Avenue SE Intersection Pedestrian Safety Study this Thursday, May 16, 6:30 pm – 8:30 pm at Payne Elementary School (1445 C Street SE). DDOT is expected to share design alternatives for public feedback. Read more about the Penn-Potomac Intersection Study.
  • Donatelli/Blue Skye Development, the sole respondent to the recent Hill East/Reservation 13 RFEI, will once again present their plans at ANC 6B’s Hill East Task Force meeting on Wednesday, May 22, 6:30 pm – 8:00 pm at St. Coletta of Greater Washington (1901 Independence Avenue SE). If you missed the April 24 meeting, this will be an opportunity to see the proposed plans for parcels F1 & G1 and share your comments. ANC 6B will likely submit formal comments to the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development in June.

Hope to see you at both meetings!

ANC 6B April Meeting Recap

April 12, 2013

We had a packed agenda and a full house for most of ANC 6B’s 3+ hour April meeting on Tuesday night. Two major Hill East projects – a proposed residential building at 1550 Penn Ave SE and DDOT’s Barney Circle-Southeast Boulevard Project – were on the agenda along with a long list of liquor license renewals. Here is a recap:

  • After hearing comments from the attendees and the developer, the commission voted 9-0 to support zoning relief for a proposed 81-unit apartment building at 1550 Pennsylvania Avenue SE, a site located in my Single Member District. NOVO Development is seeking a special exception related to the height of the building’s mechanical penthouse and variances related to the size of the loading dock and parking. The latter is the most controversial variance – NOVO plans to provide 30 of the 41 required parking spaces for the building.
  • Having worked with a number of nearby neighbors and the developer to negotiate an acceptable Memorandum of Understanding (pdf) between the parties, I voted to support the special exception and variance requests. With a signed MOU in place, which specifies the developer’s commitment to 1) develop a transportation demand management plan, 2) pursue car share and 3) urge DDOT to add on-street parking on the Penn Avenue side of the building, I felt any potential impact of the parking variance request would be minimized. Note that the developer is providing a significant number of the parking spaces required under zoning (30 of the 41 required for an 81-unit building, so the variance is for 11 spaces). The nearby neighbors deserve a lot of credit for negotiating the MOU and ensuring that negative impacts of the building beyond parking (loading, garage entrance, etc.) are addressed by NOVO Development.
  • It is important to remember the benefits this building will provide to the neighborhood. Most residents want more retail and restaurant options in Hill East. This building will help generate additional foot traffic on the 1400 block of Pennsylvania Avenue, which will help existing businesses and new businesses open and thrive. And the new building will be the first thing drivers, bikers and pedestrians see as they approach Capitol Hill – an improvement over the existing used car lot.
  • The Board of Zoning Adjustment will hear the 1550 Penn Ave SE case on Tuesday, April 30, 9:30 am at 441 4th Street NW, Room 220 South.
  • The commission voted 8-0 to send a letter (pdf) to the District Department of Transportation outlining issues and concerns related to the Barney Circle-Southeast Boulevard Project. Among a long list of issues, the commission 1) raises concerns about a proposed bus depot under the proposed Southeast Boulevard, 2) asks DDOT to include the 700 & 800 blocks of Kentucky Ave SE, the 700 block of 16th Street SE, Freedom Way SE and the stretch of 17th Street SE between Potomac Ave and Barney Circle in the scope of the project, and 3) requests that DDOT consider the project’s potential impact on Historic Congressional Cemetery.
  • The commission also voted 8-0 to send the Barney Circle project letter to Councilmember Vincent Orange (D-At-Large) with a special cover letter (pdf) referencing the Councilmember’s Feb. 23, 2013 press release “expressing joy” at DDOT’s consideration the area under the proposed Southeast Boulevard for a bus depot.
  • A good portion of the meeting was spent considering liquor license renewal requests for restaurants in the commission area. In general, the commission supported an establishment’s renewal request if they agreed to sign a settlement agreement (SA) with the commission. SA’s generally cover hours of operation and include provisions on noise and trash. The commission did vote to protest liquor license renewals for restaurants that did not sign a SA, though the commission anticipates being able to come an agreement with most of these establishments.
  • Commissioners announced a number of upcoming meetings, including:
    • April 24 DMPED meeting on Reservation 13, 6 pm – 8 pm, Dept. of Corrections Training Academy at DC General
    • Mayor Gray’s April 25 Ward 6 FY14 Budget Town Hall, 6:30 pm – 8:30 pm, Capitol Hill Montessori, 215 G Street NE
    • May 16 DDOT meeting on the Pennsylvania-Potomac Avenue Pedestrian Safety Study Project, 6:30 pm – 8:30 pm, Payne Elementary School
  • Doug Klein, the First District Prosecutor from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia gave a brief presentation on the office’s activities. Klein agreed to attend a future ANC 6B Outreach & Constituent Services Task Force meeting to answer additional commission and community questions.
  • During community speakout, Commissioner Ron Swanda of the DC Commission on Aging announced the creation of the Ward 6 Senior Network. Commissioner Swanda is looking for representatives to serve on the network, which plans a variety of activities to ensure that seniors in the ward have access to information and the services they need. Residents interested in participating in the network can contact Commissioner Swanda at or 202-340-7708. If you would like to represent ANC 6B09 on the network, please let me know.
  • ANC 6B’s May meeting will be on Tuesday, May 14, 7 pm at the Hill Center.

Residential Building Planned for 1550 Pennsylvania Ave SE

February 19, 2013
A used car lot currently sits on 1550 Pennsylvania Avenue SE.

A used car lot currently sits on 1550 Pennsylvania Avenue SE.

Lots of things happening around Barney Circle these days. In addition to the planned Barney Circle transportation project, Penn Avenue Partnership, LLC  plans to build an 80-84 unit residential building at 1550 Pennsylvania Avenue SE, located at the intersection of Penn Ave and Barney Circle. Neighbors can learn more about the plans and ask questions of the owner and developer at a meeting on Wednesday, February 27, 6:30 pm at New York Pizza (1401 Pennsylvania Avenue SE).

In addition to the initial plans (pdf), here are some additional details about the project:

  • The northern portion of the proposed building will be three stories, matching the existing three story rowhouses on the 1500 block of Penn Ave SE. As the building approaches Barney Circle, it will rise to five stories, the maximum allowed in the C-2-A zone. The initial design is by Eric Colbert & Associates.
  • Penn Ave Partnership is seeking two variances and a special exception from the Board of Zoning Adjustment. This means that ANC 6B will have an opportunity to weigh in on the project, perhaps as early as March.
  • One variance will be for parking. The plans call for 31 parking spots – 23 in an underground garage and 8 along the alley (a.k.a. “Freedom Way”) which runs behind the property. This is 11 spots short of the required 42 parking spaces. The applicant argues that the property’s unique shape makes it difficult to provide 42 parking spaces and that building a second underground level of parking would be prohibitively expensive. Additionally, the applicant points to the site’s proximity to the Potomac Avenue Metro and other transit to make the case that meeting the full parking requirement is not necessary.
  • A second variance request relates to a requirement for a loading dock that can accommodate 55-foot trucks. The applicant argues that the unique shape of the property and the narrowness of Freedom Way makes providing such a dock overly burdensome.
  • The special exception request is a technical matter relating to roof height requirements of the mechanical penthouse.
  • While there are currently curb cuts on Penn Ave and Kentucky Ave, the plans call for vehicles to enter the new building via Freedom Way. While I certainly support the idea of removing curb cuts, Freedom Way seems ill-suited to handle traffic in and out of the building. In addition, the current one-way configuration of Kentucky Ave. SE means that Freedom Way will be the only northern access point. Vehicles will have a difficult time navigating the alley, particularly if it remains two way.
  • While no final determination has been made, the projects 80-84 units will likely be apartments.
  • While parking and traffic flow are certainly concerns, the project would significantly increase foot traffic along the 1400 & 1500 blocks of Penn Ave, providing a major boost for existing and proposed retail along the corridor.

Again, the owner, developer and architect will present their plans to the community and answer questions on Wed., Feb. 27, 6:30 pm at New York Pizza. In the meantime, post your questions and comments below.

Initial design of proposed residential building courtesy of Eric Colbert & Associates.

Initial design of proposed residential building courtesy of Eric Colbert & Associates.

Pennsylvania-Potomac Avenue Intersection Safety Study Meeting Recap

February 4, 2013
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 You can also join the project e-mail list by e-mailing 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.