Dupont ANC supports 19th Street rain garden expansion, transforming Dupont Circle underpass portion to park

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At the ANC’s June 13 meeting:

The commission unanimously supported the expansion of the rain garden streetscape project on 19th Street at L Street to extend along 19th to M and K streets. Mike Van Atta, The Golden Triangle Business Improvement District’s planning manager, reported the project’s plans are now 85% complete and work should start late this fall and be completed by the end of 2019. The Golden Triangle has reached out to area businesses and there have been no objections. Plans call for work to begin at 9:30 in the mornings and end at 3:00 to avoid rush hour traffic. No streetscape will be located in front of 1145 19th Street as it hosts a large number of doctors’ office which need easy access from emergency vehicles. As yet, no contractor has been hired. Van Atta said area sidewalks would be at least 10 feet wide. The project, he said, should be very attractive to area restaurants. Any area benches or other seating will be considered at a future time.

* The commission voted unanimously to postpone the public space application by Brick Lane Restaurant to convert an un-enclosed sidewalk cafe to an enclosed one at 1636 17th St.,NW

* The commission unanimously approved a grant subject to its legality of up to $2,000 for port-a-poties for the 17th Street Festival on Aug. 25. It also unanimously supported the 17th Street High Heal Race on Tuesday, Oct. 30 stating it helps local independently owned businesses as it brings thousands of visitors to the neighborhood and tens of thousands of tax dollars to the District.

*The commission unanimously called for transforming the 1500 block of Connecticut Avenue between Dupont Circle and Q Street above a portion of the Dupont Circle underpass into a park along with a shared street along Connecticut. It called for provisions for a bikeway to connect the bike lanes on Columbia Road to whatever bike lanes are selected as a result of the 20th-21st-22nd Street NW Protected Bike Lanes Study. The shared street proposal might be a problem as the Federal Highway Administration must approve any changes in Connecticut Avenue. Should it be a problem, Commission Chair Daniel Warwick said it could be separated from the park proposal at a future commission meeting. Funding for the park is now available. Commissioner Mike Silverstein pointed out that the new park might attract tents for homeless individuals which are banned from Dupont Circle which unlike the proposed new park is a federal government park with strict rules as to its use. The new park could also be used by the Dupont Circle Farmer’s Market.

* By a vote of 8-1 (Daniel Warwick) the commission supported extending the no parking zone on Q Street, NW at 16th Street by 12 feet to the east and converting 80 feet of the 2-hour parking zone on Q Street to 15 minute parking from 6:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Monday-Friday. After 6:30 p.m., overnight parking would be allowed. Residents had been concerned about alley parking affecting pick-up/drop-off vehicles for the preschool and delivery trucks at the DC Jewish Community Center.

* After a highly charged debate, the commission decided 4-3-2 to postpone for a month consideration of taking away a car lane and introducing a bike lane on 17th Street between Massachusetts and New Hampshire avenues and a study as to whether the approach should be extended to Farragut Square. The proposal called for a 4-foot wide barrier to separate the bike lane from traffic and parking.
Commissioner Mike Silverstein said he does not trust the District Department of Transportation’s bicycle people as they are worried about transportation to and from an area and not about the effects of their recommendations on the area. “DOT is concerned with movement. I’m concerned with the neighborhood and businesses.” He said it would be very difficult for Safeway to continue to operate if there were no parking for its loading and unloading vehicles and the same would hold for the hardware store across the street from it. “We cannot create gridlock by taking away a lane.” A former commissioner, Victor Weller, said the step would “kill the neighborhood” and that commissioners should listen to Silverstein.
Silverstein added after the meeting that the neighborhood now works, but not perfectly. “Any changes could have major effects on the retailers and on pedestrians.Taking away a lane would improve safety for bicyclists, but could cause problems for pedestrians who are not looking both ways when they cross 17th Street when it is one way. It’s an incredibly complex and interdependent neighborhood. We need to try to foresee any secondary effects of any changes.”
Other commissioners answered they were not calling for a decision, just a study. One resident said that while riding his bicycle he had been hit several times by cars while another resident complained that while walking on the sidewalk he had been hit several times by bicycles. When a resident suggested that trucks should be allowed to load and unload on just one side of 17th Street, he was answered by a resident asking which merchants would have the benefit of loading merchandise on their side of the street while others would suffer because it would not be on their side.
According to a November 2017 study by Cube Root for the Department of Transportation on 17th Street between New Hampshire Avenue and K Street which was available at the meeting, there are now two auto travel lanes, two parking lanes and a 5-foot wide bicycle lane during non-rush hours. In the morning rush hours, there are six southbound auto lanes from Massachusetts Avenue to K Street with no parking. In the afternoon peak hours, there is two-way traffic with three lanes in both directions, again with no parking.
Should the proposal be adopted, the study stated there would be a 10-foot wide 2-way bicycle lane with a 4-foot buffer to protect it from cars. During non-rush hours the lanes for cars would be 28 feet wide with but one travel lane and two parking lanes. Some on-street parking would be prohibited to allow for left turn lanes at Massachusetts Avenue and at M Street. During both the morning and afternoon rush hours when parking would not be allowed, the study stated the road availability for cars south of Massachusetts Avenue would be 42 feet wide and there would be two northbound and two southbound travel lanes along with the bicycle lane. No one from Cube Root returned a call from The Current asking why the roadway width differed at the two times.
The commission plans to have one of its committees study the issue.
At its next meeting the commission will also study parking permits in Dupont and Sheridan-Kalorama where there are many more registered vehicles than residential parking spaces. It will include visitor parking permits and commercial parking spillover onto residential streets.

* The commission unanimously requested the Department of Transportation and the Metropolitan Police Department to support initiatives and improve the built environment so children can more safely walk and bicycle to school and to playgrounds. It suggested regulating school and playground zones with reduced car speeds and enhanced signs and to identify and create school and playground walking and bicycling route maps for distribution and for more traffic enforcement