A community meeting last Wednesday to explore DDOT’s 30% design plans to address endemic speeding on Maryland Ave NE turned contentious as residents pushed back against the project and were, in turn, confronted by other residents.
The meeting on August 10th was meant to be a chance for community members to get a detailed look at the design for the street and offer feedback to improve the project as the design process moves forward. Instead, the packed library meeting rooms filled with heated concerns about parking. We’ve seen this movie before.
The redesign for Maryland Ave. NE is what’s known as a “road diet” due to the fact that it will reduce the number of travel lanes in each direction (from 2 to 1) and the way that it “slims down” the road at intersections to shorten the amount of time it takes for pedestrians to cross. It also includes unprotected bike lanes along the full length of the project.
In DDOT’s analysis, Maryland Ave. NE is a good candidate for a road diet because its traffic volume (9,000-11,000 vehicles per day) can be served by fewer travel lanes without reducing the Level of Service unacceptably. (Note: we’ve discussed this problematic engineering metric before.)
A small but vocal contingent of residents calling themselves Citizens For an Informed & Safer Maryland Avenue believes that the road diet plan has been undertaken without adequate analysis or community input. This despite the work mentioned above and a timeline that began in March of 2011, proceeded through more than a dozen public meetings, and involved hundreds of hours of community engagement—both for the project itself and in conjunction with 2013’s MoveDC plan.
Prior to Wednesday’s meeting, the citizens group circulated a flier urging Maryland Ave. NE residents to attend and raising the twin specters of reduced parking and increased congestion (full disclosure: I live on the 1000 block of Maryland Ave. NE). They also started an online petition and a survey to gauge neighborhood opinions on the road diet. Among their concerns is the “argument” that Maryland Ave. NE is unsafe to bike on and therefore doesn’t need bike lanes.
We here at WABA don’t think these plans are perfect: DDOT missed an good opportunity to install the first protected bike lanes on Capitol Hill (as pointed out over at Greater Greater Washington), but this process has gone on for far too long. Maryland Avenue NE in its current configuration enables rampant speeding and puts people who walk and bike along the corridor in unnecessary danger. DDOT and the community decided this needed to change five years ago. WABA supports the Maryland Ave NE plan as it is currently designed (pending the comments from the meeting) and encourages DDOT to finish the project in 2016.