Friday Updates: Playtime Project, Vote, Eastern Branch, Barney Circle, 17th & 19th

March 28, 2014
  • As Metropolitan Police Department and FBI continue their search for missing 8-year old Relisha Rudd and her apparent abductor, you can help the other homeless children at DC General by supporting The Homeless Children’s Playtime Project. Relisha is one of the many children living at DC General that benefit from the activities of the Playtime Project, a wonderful nonprofit organization that works to brighten the lives of homeless kids. Consider a donation or purchase a gift off their Amazon wishlist.
  • Next Tuesday, April 1 is primary day in the District of Columbia. If you have a party affiliation, make sure you get out and vote either on April 1 or today and tomorrow at one of the 13 early voting centers. Polls will be open from 7 am to 8 pm on April 1. I’m supporting Tommy Wells for Mayor and Charles Allen for Ward 6 Councilmember in the Democratic primary.
  • ANC 6B’s Hill East Task Force will be holding two community meetings to discuss plans by the DC Department of General Services to issue a Request for Offers for the Eastern Branch Building (261 17th Street SE). The meetings will take place on:
    • Wed., April 9, 6:30 pm – 8:30 pm, St. Coletta of Greater Washington (1901 Independence Avenue SE)
    • Wed., April 30, 6:30 pm – 8:00 pm, Payne Elementary School (1445 C Street SE)
  • The owners of New York Pizza, located at 1401 Pennsylvania Avenue SE, plan to expand their business into the vacant commercial space across the street at 1400 Pennsylvania Avenue SE. To do so, they will need a “fast food” special exception from the Board of Zoning Adjustment. ANC 6B will likely consider the special exception request in May.
  • On Monday, March 31, ANC 6B’s Transportation Committee will discuss the DC Office of Planning’s rapid response planning effort on DDOT’s Barney Circle-Southeast Boulevard Project. The goal of the 3-4 month effort is to take a holistic view of potential uses within and surrounding the proposed Southeast Boulevard right of way. The meeting is from 6:30 pm – 8:30 pm at the Hill Center (921 Pennsylvania Ave SE).
  • Speaking of DDOT, I have some good news to share on the delayed 17th & 19th Streets Safety Improvement Project. According to the agency, construction on both streets will take place this year beginning with 19th Street in May. DDOT expects construction on the 17th Street portion of the project to begin in September.

ANC 6B Urges DDOT to Reconsider Plans for Barney Circle-SE Boulevard

January 16, 2014

During its Jan. 14 meeting, Advisory Neighborhood Commission 6B voted unanimously (10-0) to send a letter (pdf) to the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) expressing the commission’s opposition to the agency’s proposed design concepts for the Barney Circle-Southeast Boulevard Transportation Planning Study. DDOT is currently seeking public comments on the study, which envisions the construction of a full traffic circle at Barney Circle SE and a new “Southeast Boulevard” to connect the circle to the Southeast/Southwest Freeway at 11th Street SE.

In the letter, ANC 6B points out a number of flaws with the Barney Circle and the Southeast Boulevard design concepts and options presented by DDOT at its Nov. 21, 2013 public meeting. Specifically, the commission:

  • rejects DDOT’s proposed 4-lane SE Boulevard with parking lots and no connections to the existing street grid;
  • opposes the inclusion of a multi-modal parking facility in any form;
  • opposes Barney Circle Option 2 and has concerns about many aspects of Barney Circle Option;
  • feels the study suffers from a lack of neighborhood planning and involvement by DDOT with its Anacostia Waterfront Initiative partners the DC Office of Planning, the Deputy Mayor for Planning & Economic Development, and the DC Department of the Environment; and
  • questions the sufficiency of DDOT’s traffic planning scope and assumptions.

Read the full ANC 6B Letter to DDOT on Barney Circle-Southeast Boulevard Study (pdf)

A big thanks to all who submitted comments and feedback to ANC 6B or copied me and other commissioners on comments sent directly to DDOT. I’m particularly appreciative of the comments I received on the Barney Circle options from residents living on 16th, 17th, Kentucky Ave and H Streets SE. Hopefully, DDOT will listen to our concerns and reconsider their design concepts.

Also, thanks to Commissioner Kirsten Oldenburg (6B04), ANC 6B’s Transportation Committee Chair, who assembled the comments and drafted the bulk of the letter.

If you have not already done so, I encourage you to e-mail your comments and feedback directly to DDOT at barneycircle@prrbiz.com.


ANC 6B Draft Comments on DDOT’s Barney Circle-SE Boulevard Project

January 9, 2014

On Jan. 8, ANC 6B’s Transportation Committee discussed a draft of the commission’s formal comments to the District Department of Transportation on their proposed design concepts for the Barney Circle-Southeast Boulevard Project. Here is a link to the draft comments discussed at the meeting:

The committee recommended a number of clarifying changes to the comments including the addition of an opening sentence that conveys the commission’s  opposition to the design concepts presented to the community on Nov. 21, 2013. The committee also wanted to make it clear that other stakeholders besides DDOT need to be brought into the project discussion. ANC 6B will vote on the revised comments during next Tuesday’s (Jan. 14) full commission meeting (7 pm at the Hill Center).

Please post your feedback on the draft comments below. You can also share your thoughts with me during my office hours this Sunday, Jan. 12, 2 pm – 3 pm at Curbside Cafe (257 15th Street SE).


Tuesday Quick Takes: Barney Circle-SE Blvd, Penn Ave Projects, NSO, Office Hours

January 7, 2014
  • On Wed., Jan. 8, ANC 6B’s Transportation Committee will be discussing the commission’s formal comments to the District Department of Transportation on the proposed design concepts for the Barney Circle-Southeast Boulevard project from 6:30 – 8:00 pm at the Hill Center (921 Pennsylvania Avenue SE). If you have not yet had a chance to weigh in on this important project, please attend the committee meeting or send your comments directly to DDOT at barneycircle@prrbiz.com. Thanks to all who have already attended meetings and/or sent comments.
  • Construction on the two-story commercial building at 1442 Pennsylvania Avenue SE is almost complete. Douglas Development plans to finish the building this month. Still no word on potential tenants, though Douglas hopes to have some news to share soon.
  • Goldstar Group is seeking a parking variance for their proposed 41-unit residential building at 1500 Pennsylvania Avenue SE. Goldstar plans to provide the required parking for the building (21 spaces) but needs to include 8 compact spaces. Under the current DC zoning code, compact spaces can only be counted in garages that have more than 25 parking spaces. The Board of Zoning Adjustment will consider Goldstar’s variance request at a hearing on Feb. 25. ANC 6B will consider the variance request during our February meetings – the Feb. 3 ANC 6B Planning & Zoning Committee meeting and the Feb. 10 full commission meeting. I’ll share more information later this month.
  • NOVO Development group plans to begin construction on 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue SE sometime in February. I’m working to schedule a community meeting to discuss construction, etc. with nearby neighbors.
  • This week, the National Symphony Orchestra will be holding a series of free concerts around Capitol Hill and H Street NE, including a chamber music concert on Sunday, Jan. 12, 12 pm – 1 pm at the Congressional Cemetery Chapel (1801 E Street SE). The events are part of the “NSO in Your Neighborhood Program” which runs from Jan. 7-13. You can learn more about the program and view a full schedule on the NSO website.
  • After attending the concert, stop by my office hours on Sunday, Jan. 12 from 2 pm – 3 pm at Curbside Cafe (257 15th Street SE). No formal agenda – just an opportunity for you to share feedback, questions and concerns with me.

Southeast Blvd. Designs Look Like the Freeway It’s Replacing

November 22, 2013

Last night, the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) presented several concepts for replacing the end of the Southeast Freeway with a boulevard. While it’s supposed to reconnect Hill East to the Anacostia River, all of the designs presented prioritize through traffic instead.

The Southeast Freeway has been a barrier between the neighborhood and the river, but the new 11th Street bridges mean that the spur between 11th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue SE is no longer needed. DDOT would like to replace it with a surface street, called “Southeast Boulevard,” connecting the freeway at 11th Street to Barney Circle.

A standing-room only crowd packed the Payne Elementary School auditorium for DDOT’s public meeting on the Barney Circle-Southeast Boulevard Transportation Planning Study. At the meeting, required as part of an environmental assessment of the project under the National Environmental Protection Act, transportation planners shared design concepts for the project and gathered community feedback.

Map on Concept 2. Images from DDOT.

Map on Concept 2. Images from DDOT.

Alternatives for Southeast Boulevard and Barney Circle vary slightly

DDOT planners presented six different options they’re studying for the new street, including a “No Build” option (Concept 1) required as part of the NEPA process that would keep everything as it is today.

Concept 2 puts Southeast Boulevard on an elevated structure midway between L Street SE and the existing CSX railroad tracks. The boulevard would be on the same level as L Street, with green space acting as a buffer. Pedestrians and cyclists could access the waterfront by crossing the boulevard at 14th Street SE. DDOT would also build a “multi-modal” parking facility underneath the raised boulevard, with ramps off of the boulevard providing bus and car access to the parking facility.

Concept 2

Concept 2

In Concept 3A, Southeast Boulevard would be at grade, below the level of L Street, with surface parking and green space next to it. There would be a foot and bike bridge over the boulevard and another surface lot to provide access to the waterfront.

Concept 3A

Concept 3A

Concept 3B is similar to 3A, except the boulevard is on the same level as L Street. In this case, pedestrians and cyclists would have to cross directly over the 4-lane boulevard and surface parking lot to access the waterfront.

Concept 3B

Concept 3B

Concept 4A places the Southeast Boulevard closer to the railroad tracks and away from L Street, with a parking lot in between. The boulevard and parking would be at grade below the level of L Street. Pedestrians and cyclists would access the waterfront via a pedestrian bridge over the parking lots and boulevard.

Concept 4A

Concept 4A

Concept 4B is the same, except the boulevard is at the same level as L Street, and pedestrians and cyclists would cross the parking lots and boulevard at 14th Street.

Concept 4B

Concept 4B

Planners also presented two options on the Barney Circle project, both of which would place traffic signals at the circle.

Option 1 would connect 17th Street, Kentucky Avenue, Pennsylvania Avenue and Southeast Boulevard directly to the circle. Kentucky Avenue would stay a two-way street south of Freedom Way and one-way north of it. K Street would not be connected to the circle, but you could still reach it via Pennsylvania Avenue.

In Option 2, 17th, Pennsylvania and Southeast Boulevard would connect to Barney Circle, while Kentucky Avenue would become a one-way southbound street from H Street to the circle. H Street would become a two-way street, with all-way stop signs installed at 17th & H and 16th, Kentucky and H. K Street would remain one-way, but would connect directly to the circle.

Barney Circle Option 1

Barney Circle Option 1

These options prioritize through traffic over local connections

All of DDOT’s concepts for Southeast Boulevard have three things in common: they all include a four-lane boulevard, have no connections to local streets, and include some parking element. The agency’s traffic analysis determined that the new street was necessary, connections to local strets would increase cut-through traffic and that there’s a significant need for parking.

The result is concepts that simply recreate what DDOT and the Anacostia Waterfront Initiative are trying to eliminate: a freeway that separates the neighborhood from the waterfront. The extra lanes, lack of signals and additional parking will just attract more drivers to the neighborhood during rush hour.

The designs are especially harmful to 17th Street, where Hill East residents have fought for years to reduce traffic volume and speed. DDOT proposes making 17th Street the only access point to Southeast Boulevard via Barney Circle, making it an alternative for drivers trying to avoid 295 and the 11th Street bridge.

Replace the freeway with a new street grid

If a new street is necessary, a better option is to extend the neighborhood grid by connecting the local streets, 13th, 14th, and 15th, to a two-lane boulevard with stoplights at each intersection. This would make it easier for pedestrians and cyclists to cross at multiple locations and make the boulevard a local street, rather than a freeway.

A two-lane road with multiple signals would attract less traffic, easing but not eliminating some of the pressure on 17th Street SE. Green space could provide a buffer between L Street and the two-lane boulevard. And forget the unneeded parking lots.

On Barney Circle, Option 1 appears to be preferable to Option 2, assuming that DDOT can implement traffic calming measures on Kentucky Ave SE. Option 2 exacerbates current traffic volume problems by attracting more vehicles to 16th, 17th and H streets. Without changes to the Southeast Boulevard portion of the project, both Barney Circle options make the neighborhood worse off.

If the goal of the Anacostia Waterfront Initiative is really “to reduce barriers between neighborhoods and the waterfront parks” and “provide continuous pedestrian and bicycle access along the entire waterfront,” than we need an option that replaces the Southeast Freeway with a new street grid that prioritizes local connections.

What do you think about the proposals? You can send your comments directly to DDOT at barneycircle@prrbiz.com.