The quorum: Christine Healey (6C01), Karen Wirt Chair (6C02), Scott Price (6C03), Mark Eckenwiler (6C04), Chris Miller (6C05), Heather Edelman (6C06).
The November meeting of Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 6C was largely concerned with business of the Transportation and Public Space (TPS) Committee. The committee had supported recommendations made by the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) relative to a K Street NE Traffic Safety Study and a NoMa Bicycle Study.
Both studies are in progress and have been previously discussed in the September and October meetings of ANC 6C, and were discussed together as one during the November ANC as they focus on the same stretch of K Street NE. The NoMa Bicycle Study looks for ways to improve bicycle connection in the area while the K Street NE Traffic Study looks for ways to improve road safety in the area.
The solutions offered in the DDOT design proposal focus on the portion of K Street NE from First to Eighth Streets NE, the edge of ANC 6C.
The proposed road design would include bicycle lanes from Sixth Street westward to North Capitol and beyond. The design would vary from block to block. West of First Street, the design calls for standard bicycle lanes in the direction of traffic on each side of the street. On the 100 block, which travels under an underpass, DDOT proposed a two-way cycle track. There are currently four car lanes in this stretch; under the DDOT proposal, the southern eastbound lane would become the cycling track. The other three lanes would be unaffected.
On the 200-500 blocks of K Street, bicycle lanes in the direction of traffic would be installed on each side of the street. These installations would require the removal of parking lanes (south side 200-300, north side 400, both sides of 500) as dictated by the presence of bus lanes and the insertion of a left turn lane at Fifth Street.
Traffic calming is the focus of K Street study. As part of the redesign, all parking on the remainder of K Street would no longer be subject to morning and afternoon rush hour restrictions. From Second to Sixth streets there would therefore be bike lanes and one or no lanes of parking. East of Sixth Street, parking would remain the same with minor adjustments for left turn lanes. There would be no additional bike lanes.
The DDOT proposal discussed alternative locations for bike lanes. K Street was preferred over I Street because it connects west of the train tracks, whereas I Street does not. Data was presented showing that most cyclists are currently using the Metropolitan Branch Trail, the First Street cycle track and K and I streets.
The committee reminded those assembled that the proposal is only a concept. The overall feeling of the committee was that traffic calming was a priority.
The TPS Committee supported a motion to recommend that the DDOT concept be supported as laid out, but with four additional recommendations to DDOT:
- Investigate the possibility of a two-way cyclist path between First and Sixth Streets NE
- Look specifically at the impact of street parking on the Hayes Senior Wellness Center (500 K St. NE)
- Implement resident-only parking on K Street NE
- Investigate the need, possibility and impact of the possible consolidation of bus stops along K Street NE.
More than twenty area residents were present to voice their opinions on the bike and traffic study. They pointed to the impact of proposed changes – in particular the loss of parking and related access to homes on or near K Street NE for families, seniors and those with less mobility. Many said that insufficient study and data collection had been undertaken to approve the concept at this point.
Many residents said they felt that the convenience and safety of cyclists passing through their community was being prioritized over access to their homes by car and over resident safety. One pointed out that while a car had recently struck an adult with children at Sixth and K Streets NE, a pedestrian had also recently been attacked in the early morning hours at Second and K Streets NE. The resident argued that compelling residents to walk great distances between their homes and cars puts them in danger.
Former ANC 6C TPS Committee Chair and area resident Joe McCann said that road safety was more important than parking, noting that he had seen two or three cars flipped over in his time in the area. He noted the changes were necessary to make the street safe for everyone.
Audience members asked if DDOT had studied the possible impact of proposed changes for residents, or if they knew how many families living in the area would be impacted by possible changes. DDOT Project Manager Darren Buck said that he could not say that type of study had been performed, although he said the agency had done its best to quantify impacts of the proposal.
Buck acknowledged that DDOT and the Project Team still had work to do, including determining where to place turn lanes, what side of the street would retain parking and what would become of a disabled parking spot on the 400 block of K Street NE.
He noted that the project was still in the design phase, and that bicycle lanes had been included in the District Master Plan for the area.
“Our job is to serve the traveling public of DC as safely as possible,” Buck said, noting that the origin point of travellers is less important than their safety as they move through the District.
Buck responded to a resident of the area who identified as a cyclist and had suggested that the lanes on I Street NE would serve all the goals of the project, with a one-block deviation from a straight line near Second Street. Buck said that route does not address the population expected to be cycling from the North down West Virginia Ave or along New York Avenue and the Union Market Corridor down Sixth Street in the future.
Buck said the next step for the project was to produce a second design concept based on the additional information accumulated in public meetings and in data collection.
Commissioner Mark Eckenwiler (6C04) pointed out that, for the past 70 years, city infrastructure had been built with automobiles in mind and said that he would support DDOT’s recommendations in order to move the pendulum in the opposite direction. Commissioner Heather Edelman (6C06) said that she had considered all the comments and information she had received and that process had caused her much stress and concern. After much thought, she would support the recommendation. Commissioner Karen Wirt (6C02) supported the recommendations but asked for more study to be done in light of the concerns expressed.
For Commissioner Chris Miller (6C05), in whose Single Member District the project focuses, the community feeling motivated him to withhold support. “I do believe there is more than one way of looking at safety,” he said.
The Commission supported the motion by a vote of 5 to 1, with the proviso that this was support for the concept and that there were details that needed to be worked out before implementation.
Some area residents left the meeting expressing passionate displeasure with the vote. Commissioner Scott Price (6C03) encouraged DDOT to find a way to approach residents with an explanation for the plans and the potential consequences.
The next meeting of ANC 6C will be held at 7:00 p.m. Thursday, December 14th at the Heritage Foundation (214 Massachusetts Ave. NE). Note that this is a different day due to room occupancy requirements.