Let’s talk about Louisiana Ave Protected Bike Lanes

Louisiana Ave in red is a missing link in a much larger protected bike lane network in green

After more than three years working to fill a gap in Downtown DC’s protected bike lane network on Louisiana Ave, the project is moving forward. Better yet, preliminary plans are done and ready to share!

On Wednesday, October 24, Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton is hosting a community meeting and panel discussion with the District Department of Transportation to introduce this project to the public and get feedback on current plans. This is our chance to stand up as a community and say “we want this project!” Will you join us?

Yes, I’ll Be There!

Louisiana Ave Protected Bike Lane Community Meeting
Wednesday, October 24
6:00 pm – 7:00 pm Open House
7:00 pm – 9:00 pm Community Meeting & Panel Discussion
Rayburn House Office Building
45 Independence Avenue SW (Room 2253
Click here to RSVP

Bringing this project to this point has not been easy. It has taken the combined will of neighborhood commissioners, councilmembers, members of Congress and hundreds of people like you. So join us on Wednesday to see the plan and keep the pressure up!

See you on Wednesday.

600+ speak up for Louisiana Ave protected bike lanes

Louisiana Ave in red is a missing link in a much larger protected bike lane network in green

After more than three years of plans for a Louisiana Avenue protected bike lane bouncing between DDOT, the Architect of the Capitol and other Capital grounds departments, WABA started a petition in May to reinvigorate planning for the project. The petition called on US Senate Sergeant at Arms Michael Stenger, one of the many stakeholders for the Capitol grounds, to work proactively to implement this project without further delay. When we delivered the petition earlier this month, 610 people had signed on!

The Louisiana Ave protected bike lane project is a key connector for downtown DC’s low-stress, protected bicycle network. DDOT’s concepts envision a continuous protected bike lane connecting the Pennsylvania Ave lanes to First St. NE via Constitution Ave and Louisiana Ave. It would link the Metropolitan Branch Trail to the National Mall, filling a key gap in the Capital Trails Network and the East Coast Greenway. It would be a tremendous improvement for thousands of daily bike commuters, Capital staff, and visitors.

Though Louisiana Ave is a relatively short road, making changes to it is complicated due to an intricate web of overlapping ownership and interest. The Architect of the Capitol, National Park Service, Senate Sergeant at Arms, the District government, Congress and more all have a say in what happens in this space. The good news is that the key stakeholders, including the Sergeant at Arms, Architect of the Capitol, DDOT and Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton are now all at the table talking through a path forward. And while there is nothing concrete to report today, we hope to share some news soon.

You can read our letter to the Sergeant at Arms here.

What’s going on with the Louisiana Avenue protected bike lane?

Intersection of Louisiana Ave. at New Jersey Ave.

Since June 2015, the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) and the Architect of the Capitol (AOC) have been working on plans for a Louisiana Ave protected bike lane to fill a gap in the downtown bicycle network between Union Station and Pennsylvania Ave NW. Three years later, planning is stalled and Louisiana Ave remains a dangerous speedway, leaving many asking why.

Despite support from a wide range of stakeholders in DC and on Capitol Hill, the delay is due to a familiar obstacle: car parking. Adding protected bike lanes to Louisiana Ave will require repurposing a handful of curbside parking spaces in the half-mile between Pennsylvania Ave and D St. NE and a few more spaces in the center median of the final block near Union Station. Each of these parking spaces are reserved exclusively for Senate staff. And the Senate Sergeant at Arms, whose office manages the parking supply for the Senate, is apparently unwilling to relinquish any of the spaces needed for this project to proceed.

The red segment is the current existing gap between Union Station and Pennsylvania Ave.

In a January letter, Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton asked the Senate Sergeant at Arms, Frank Larkin, to reconsider his office’s opposition and allow construction to commence. “Losing a few parking spaces,” she wrote, “is a small price to pay to ensure public safety and help alleviate congestion near the Capitol by encouraging alternative modes of transportation.” Read the full letter here.

Ask For His Support

According to the Architect of the Capitol, who manages the Capitol buildings and grounds, a number of large campus construction projects planned and underway will substantially reduce available parking for the next few years, putting additional demand on existing parking.

But, to place the parking situation in context, there are reportedly as many as 5,800 parking spaces on the House side of the Capitol alone and perhaps an equal number on the Senate side. Two Metro stations, MARC, VRE, more than a dozen bus routes and a handful of regional trails serve the Capitol Complex, giving staff unparalleled transportation options. There may never be a convenient time for this project. A few more years is too long to wait for a safe, bikeable, and walkable Louisiana Ave.

The Louisiana Ave. project has vocal support from Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton, the Congressional Bike Caucus, DC Mayor Muriel Bowser, Ward 6 Councilmember Charles Allen, Advisory Neighborhood Commission 6C and the Regional Council of Governments. DDOT has devoted considerable resources to design work, and plans to fully cover construction costs with local funds. And last year, Congress passed an omnibus bill that included language calling for construction of the Louisiana Avenue bike lanes without delay.

Last month, Frank Larkin retired and Michael Stenger became the new Senate Sergeant at Arms, creating a new opportunity to engage. Please sign our petition to ask him to reconsider his predecessor’s objections and to allow this needed safety project to move forward.

Sign the Petition

More Support for a Low Stress Louisiana Ave

Support is growing quickly for a protected bike lane on Louisiana Avenue to fill a major gap in downtown DC’s low stress bike lane network. Since June, the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) and the Architect of the Capitol (AOC) have received requests from DC Councilmember Charles Allen, ANC 6C, and even members of the Congressional Bike Caucus, urging swift action and support for a protected bike lane on Louisiana Avenue between existing lanes on First Street NE and Pennsylvania Ave. Following these requests, DDOT and AOC staff have already conducted a preliminary site visit to explore possibilities.

Louisiana Ave in red is a missing link in a much larger protected bike lane network in green

Earlier this week, Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton added her support in a letter to DDOT Director Dormsjo and Architect of the Capitol Stephen Ayers.

“A protected bike lane between Union Station and the U.S. Capitol Grounds on Louisiana Avenue would improve safety and provide a vital link between already existing bike lanes in the area,” she wrote. “Union Station and the U.S. Capitol are separated by multi-lane roadways with fast-moving traffic, which poses safety risks to the residents, workers, and visitors destined for Union Station, the U.S. Capitol, and points beyond. DDOT Has already constructed protected bike lanes on Pennsylvania Avenue NW and First Street NE and throughout the city. Filling in the missing link on Louisiana Avenue NE would help complete this network of bicycle lanes.” Read the full letter here.

We are grateful to have the support of Congresswoman Norton for a project with benefits for countless DC’s residents, workers, and visitors. More updates on this campaign as it progresses. Read more about the proposal here

Momentum Builds for Louisiana Ave. Protected Bike Lane

For every new trail, bike lane, and policy that makes the region a better place to bike, there are committed advocates working in their communities, with government officials, and WABA staff to improve our streets for people who bike. Here is an update from Joe McCann, a DC advocate.

Louisiana Ave. is a hostile place for people on bikes (image from Google Street View)

We are happy to report that broad consensus is emerging for the creation of a protected bicycle lane linking Union Station and the Capitol grounds via Louisiana Avenue.  In recent months, Ward 6 Council Member Charles Allen, Advisory Neighborhood Commission 6C (ANC 6C) and the Congressional Bike Caucus have separately written the Architect of the Capitol and the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) to express strong support for a protected bike lane on Louisiana Avenue as a means to create a safe and efficient bicycle link between two major employment, transit and tourist centers in the heart of the District. Read these letters here: Charles Allen, ANC 6C, and Bike Caucus.

By way of background, the Architect of the Capitol (AOC) is responsible to the United States Congress and the Supreme Court for 17.4 million square feet of buildings and more than 553 acres of land throughout Capitol Hill, including Louisiana Ave and much of the area between Union Station and the Capitol. In a response letter addressed to ANC 6C, the AOC indicated that he is actively evaluating the feasibility of a bicycle facility along Louisiana Ave (read the letter). DDOT, which has primary responsibility for transportation infrastructure in the District, already has identified Louisiana Ave as the desired location for a bicycle link between Union Station and the Capitol in its 2005 Bicycle Master Plan and again more recently in its 2014 MoveDC plan.

The potential implications of a protected bicycle facility on Louisiana Avenue are enormous.

Although less than a half mile apart, Union Station and the Capitol are separated by multi-lane roadways with challenging intersections and fast moving traffic.  Under these conditions, it is exceedingly difficult today for even the most experienced bicyclist to travel the short distance between these two hubs without unacceptably elevated risk.

Proposed protected bike lane from Union Station to the National Mall

The situation is particularly acute because Union Station annually welcomes hundreds of thousands of visitors, many of whom are destined for the Capitol and the National Mall.  Most of these visitors are unfamiliar with District roadways and therefore require the physical separation and way-finding that only a protected bike lane can afford them during their uniquely special visit to the Capitol.

By filling the gap between Union Station and the Capitol grounds, the Louisiana Ave. lanes also would link together existing protected bike lanes on Pennsylvania Ave NW and First Avenue NE and thereby complete a contiguous network of protected bicycle infrastructure stretching across the L’Enfant City from the Brookland neighborhood in Northeast DC to Georgetown and Columbia Heights in Northwest DC.  This connected network of facilities would mark a major milestone in the District’s efforts to promote bicycling as a safe and viable means of transportation for people of all ages and bicycling abilities. 

Louisiana Ave in red is a missing link in a much larger protected bike lane network in green

WABA and its members are very encouraged that the AOC, in collaboration with DDOT, is actively evaluating the viability of a protected facility on Louisiana Ave.  The League of  American Bicyclists recently recognized the AOC as a “Bicycle-Friendly Business” at the Bronze Level. We are hopeful that the AOC will build upon this achievement by approving the Louisiana Ave protected bike lane.  In the process, the AOC will transform the Capitol campus into a safer place to visit and a model for the nation in terms of bicycling infrastructure.

Joe McCann is a WABA member who previously served as the chair of ANC 6C’s Transportation and Public Space Committee.  He lives and works near Union Station.