Tempers and voices were raised as the Department of General Services (DGS) presented the traffic study in support of plans to reverse the direction of traffic on the 600 and 700 blocks of D Street SE as well as close the sliplanes in front of Dunkin Donuts as part of renovations to the Eastern Market Metro Plaza (EMMP) park project.
Project Team Leader Cassidy Mullen appeared at the Oct. 15 meeting of Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 6B with representative Brent Showalter from civil engineering firm A. Morton Thomas (AMT) to present the traffic study supporting a proposal to reverse the traffic direction.
The presentation comes in advance of the DGS application for construction permits for the project, scheduled to be heard by the DDOT Public Space Committee (PSC) on October 24. The presentation was also meant to address several questions about park plans and maintenance posed in letters written by the ANC to the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) and DGS earlier this year.
The ANC unanimously opposed the application due to the lack of opportunity for public input. In a letter to DDOT they asked the PSC to defer the hearing to allow the ANC time to consider the transportation study. “We would appreciate it if the District agencies overseeing this project would stop putting up barriers, thereby reducing the Commission’s ability to carry out it’s responsibilities under DC Code,” they wrote.
Oct 15th DGS Presentation to ANC 6B, Courtesy DGS
Prioritizing Pedestrian and Park Safety
Mullen said that the decision to reverse traffic on D Street was based on data collected during a transportation study conducted in March by AMT. That study showed that reversal of traffic would increase pedestrian safety in the area and increase park enjoyment, he said, emphasizing that pedestrian safety and park safety were prioritized over concern with vehicular commute times.
Mullen said that the street reversal would reduce traffic flow around the park area as well as take traffic flow away from the Eighth Street and Pennsylvania Avenue SE intersection. Manual redistribution analysis presented by Showalter shows that, after reversal, traffic would flow down Seventh, Eighth and Tenth Streets rather than down South Carolina to Ninth or D Streets SE. Similarly, eastbound traffic is expected to choose E Street to Ninth or Tenth or up Sixth street directly or via D Street to Pennsylvania Avenue SE.
Showalter said that the closure of the sliplanes would reduce the number of pedestrian crossings from the north side to the south side of the park. Planned modifications to the streetscape will decrease crosswalk length by 70% by creating bump-outs at intersections with South Carolina Avenue SE and re-configuring lanes.
At the intersection with Seventh Street, South Carolina Avenue will be straightened to align with D Street SE. On the North side, bump outs will discourage traffic on South Carolina from continuing in the wrong direction on D Street SE and are also intended to angle the lanes to prevent traffic from meeting head-to-head. A table-top pedestrian crossing will be added between the Southeast Library and the plaza park. These modifications will come with a total loss of about 19 parking spots and will be accompanied by signage.
Residents Want Views Heard
Residents at the meeting voice a number of concerns, such as the role of metro buses in the study and change in traffic pattern, traffic build-up as a result of the closure of the sliplanes, and the potential for collision when the streets are reversed. They also objected to the lack of community consultation about changes to the traffic pattern, saying that they had expected there to be a meeting about the traffic study in advance of applications for permits and construction.
Critics of the plan asked if the study had considered the effect of the weekend closure of Seventh Street SE for the flea markets, pointing out that expected traffic flow across that street and Pennsylvania Avenue SE is impeded weekends.
While Showalter representative said that the data used in the analysis was collected in real time at the intersections this past March, residents pointed out that the 200 block of Seventh Street SE was only open to traffic Saturdays to traffic due to a contract dispute. The street remained closed to traffic for the separate flea market operations that continued on Sundays throughout the period.
Commissioner Steve Holtzman (6B05) said the commission did not want to delay the project, but wanted to be sure that community input was considered, as required by the process. “You’re getting these questions which are very detailed and full of local knowledge, with people having had a day and a half to look at this,” said Holtzman.
“There’s a lot of people in this community that are trained in many different ways,” he said. “There are a lot of people who have been here for decades and know each of these lots and watched how they changed.”
“That’s information that is of value in getting this right –that’s all we’re saying.”
Chair Chander Jayaraman (6B08) said the discussion demonstrated that DGS was not ready to go before the PSC for permits. Pointing out that the study would be released Wednesday morning with the hearing set for Thursday of the following week, he said the community needed time to be able to digest and discuss the study with representatives of DGS, AMT and DDOT at a meeting focused on the traffic study.
Mullen said that he could not speak to any possible delay of the permit applications, indicating that he expected the application for construction permits would go before the committee Oct. 24 barring a different decision from DGS leadership.
The transportation study is available online. A community meeting is expected to be scheduled for early November, during which transportation matters will be a focus of discussion. The public space committee meeting will be held 9 a.m. Thursday, Oct. 24 at 1100 Fourth St. SW, Second Floor.
Learn more about the project and project team by visiting dgs.dc.gov/page/eastern-market-metro-park-project