Action: It’s Time to Build the 9th St. PBL!

Update: The DDOT comment period closed on September 22, 2022. Thanks to everyone who spoke up! Updates on this project to follow, when we have them.

After seven impossibly long years of study, debate, delay, starting, pausing and restarting, the District Department of Transportation has finally reached the last step in the 9th St. NW protected bike lane saga. This month, DDOT issued a notice of intent to build the project, released the near-final plans and began one last round of public input. 

Let’s give this project the enthusiastic send-off it deserves, congratulate the staff who shepherded it through such troubled waters, and get it built! Scroll down for more detail.

What’s in the 9th St. NW Protected Bike Lane & Traffic Calming Project?

DDOT will transform 1.5 miles of 9th St. NW from Pennsylvania Ave to T St. NW (map), adding new protected bike lanes, significant traffic calming, and pedestrian safety upgrades. Over the years, this project has changed a lot as DDOT worked to balance the many competing needs of the corridor. The result is a street design that prioritizes sustainable mobility, traffic safety, pedestrian comfort, access for people with disabilities, and thriving businesses.

The bi-directional protected bike lane will run along the east side of 9th St. NW. It will be separated from car traffic by a mix of concrete curbs, concrete wheel stops, flex-posts, and on many blocks, parked cars. At intersections, people on bikes will be protected from vehicle left turns thanks to dedicated left turn signals. The lane will be 9-11 feet wide on most blocks, pinching down to 8 feet in some constrained blocks and near intersections. It will stitch together the Shaw and Downtown low stress bike network, with connections to Pennsylvania Ave, E, Q, R and T Streets, link directly into the new Florida Ave protected bike lanes north of U St, and once it is built, the K St bikeway to the west.

The plan is full of benefits for people walking and rolling too. New pedestrian refuge islands and fewer driving lanes makes crossing the street easier and safer for everyone, especially for people with disabilities, seniors and kids, who may struggle to cross 9th St in time today. One fewer driving lane, dedicated left turn lanes, and the protected bike lane will also have a dramatic impact in reducing aggressive driving, like speeding, unsafe passing, and fast left turns. Thanks to extensive input from businesses along the corridor, the design also allows streateries to remain on 9th St without bike lane conflicts for a more vibrant street atmosphere.

DDOT has also put a lot of work into balancing new loading zones, pickup and drop-off, minimizing car traffic, and minimizing changes to car parking, including Sunday angled parking.

For the full rundown on the plan, read DDOT’s Notice of Intent here. To see the (extremely) detailed plans, click here. Comments are due September 22nd.

What’s a Notice of Intent?

Under DC Law, the District Department of Transportation is required to give written notice to relevant advisory neighborhood commissions before making any changes to streets that affect traffic operations or on-street parking in their area. The Notice of intent is a formal comment period when any individual or ANC may submit written comments about a project, typically offering support, opposition, or substantive suggestions on design. Once the comment period closes, DDOT staff summarize comments, tally support and opposition. Finally, DDOT convenes an internal review panel to consider comments, determine a path forward, and provide any required responses to ANCs. 

For safe streets advocates, the Notice of Intent comment period is the final opportunity to review the overall plan, show support, and suggest modifications. While thoughtful or substantive comments are most helpful, short, supportive comments can help tip the scales towards action on safety improvements that require more aggressive tradeoffs, like removing car parking.

Support 1.5 miles of new protected bike lanes across DC

Update: this comment period closed on August 8. Thanks to everyone who wrote in!

DDOT has reached the final milestone before breaking ground on 3 projects totaling 1.5 miles of new protected bike lanes, safer walking, and traffic calming in NE, SE and SW DC.  DDOT is taking written comments on each plan, so this is the last opportunity to speak up in support or to suggest improvements. Use the form below to send a comment showing that you support these additions to DC’s Low Stress Bike Network.

Each of these projects have been in the works for more than a year (some much longer) with opportunities for community input and discussion. Each comes with some tradeoffs like repurposing driving lanes or reducing parking spaces to create more space for comfortable biking, safer intersections for pedestrians, and fewer opportunities for dangerous driving. WABA believes that these tradeoffs are worth it for a safer, more livable, and more accessible DC. Scroll down for more details on the projects.

About the Projects

I (Eye) St. SE/SW Safe Street & Protected Bike Lane Project

This project, two+ years in the making, will upgrade the Eye St. bike lanes to protected bike lanes from 7th SW to 4th St  SE. This new low-stress bike connection will link protected bike lanes on Maine Ave, 4th St. SW, First St. SE, New Jersey Ave, and Virginia Ave, stitching together the north-south routes into a more complete neighborhood network.

For pedestrians, the project will redesign intersectins for fewer conflicts and slower vehicle turns, add a new mid-block crossing at Wesley Pl, and offer a more comfortable walking environment thanks to narrower driving lanes and fewer opportunities for speeding and aggressive driving.

To make these changes, this project will reduce I street to one driving lane in each direction and repurpose some on-street parking spaces. Car parking will remain on at least one side of each block throughout the corridor.

While the design is generally quite strong, we have concerns with two areas, which we encourage you to raise as well:

  1. Protected intersectin needed at South Capitol St. – this is an extremely high vehicle volume intersection with a very high volume of turns where many people on bikes have already been injured in crashes. DDOT should reconfigure this intersection to protect bicyclists behind curbs to limit conflicts approaching and within the intersection.
  2. Unprotected bike lane is not the right solution at Amidon Bowen Elementary School – west of 4th St SW, DDOT has proposed using a painted, unprotected bike lane outside of curbside parking to enable curbside pickup-dropoff at the elementary school. Though children arriving by car need a safe space to exit the car curbside, children arriving by bike and the daily traveling public I St. by bike deserve the same. DDOT should instead use a design that ramps the bike lane up to sidewalk level (similar to a shared bus platform).

For more detail and to see the plans, click here. The comment period closed on August 8th.. Where is this?

19th St NE Protected Bike Lanes

This project will install a two-way protected bike lane on the west side of 19th Street NE from East Capitol Street to C Street NE and move parking to the east side of the street. This short protected bike lane will be the first piece of a more comprehensive network of protected bike lanes on 19th NE/SE, 17th NE/SE and Potomac Ave SE which are still in planning and C St. NE which is under construction. 

This short segment is being expedited by the request of ANC 6A to be ready before the 2022/23 school year to allow students safer trips to Eliot Hine Middle School and Eastern High School by bike.

For more detail and to see the plans, click here.  The comment period closed on August 8th. Where is this?

Monroe St. NE Protected Bike Lanes

This project will convert the existing Monroe St. NE painted bike lanes to a 2-way protected bike lane from 8th St. NE to Michigan Ave NE on the north side of the street. This new bikeway will connect to existing and planned protected lanes at 8th St. and to a planned sidepath on Michigan Ave to the Irving St. protected bike lanes The project includes a new dedicated turn lane at 7th St, designated pickup-dropoff zones and parking on each side of the street,. and a new raised bus platform to maintain access to the bus stop at 7th St. 

For more detail and to see the plans, click here. The comment period closed on August 2nd. Where is this?

What’s a Notice of Intent?

Under DC Law, the District Department of Transportation is required to give written notice to relevant advisory neighborhood commissions before making any changes to streets that affect traffic operations or on-street parking in their area. The Notice of Intent is a formal comment period when any individual or ANC may submit written comments about a project, typically offering support, opposition, or substantive suggestions on design. Once the comment period closes, DDOT staff summarize comments, tally support and opposition. Finally, DDOT convenes an internal review panel to consider comments, determine a path forward, and provide any required responses to ANCs. 

For safe streets advocates, the Notice of Intent comment period is the final opportunity to review the overall plan, show support, and suggest modifications. While thoughtful or substantive comments are most helpful, short, supportive comments can help tip the scales towards action on safety improvements that require more aggressive tradeoffs, like removing car parking.

Don’t let NPS end car-free Beach Drive.

Update: the NPS comment period closed on August 12. Read PARC’s full comment letter here (pdf). NPS will issue a record of decision once all comments are reviewed, likely this fall. Upper Beach Drive will be closed to through traffic and open to people biking, walking, and enjoying the park until the final decision is issued.

The National Park Service wants to bring cars back to Upper Beach Drive during weekdays for nine months of the year, offering only a summertime break from speeding cars in our great park. We firmly believe that the compromise they’re proposing is not enough.

On July 11, the National Park Service released the Environmental Assessment for Upper Beach Drive. Under the preferred alternative, NPS chose a compromise that would make Upper Beach Drive open for people from Memorial Day to Labor Day — but an automobile space for the other nine months.

NPS will accept comments on this decision until August 11th. We need you to speak out. Tell the Park Service that you do not agree with this formula – that it is unjustified and unacceptable.

NPS is accepting comments via webform on its PEPC website or by mail. Click here to submit a comment and scroll down to “Comment Now” near the bottom). We strongly encourage you to draft and save your comments, then paste them into the webform. You may review the full Environmental Assessment (EA) here.

Background

For nearly 40 years, Upper Beach Drive has been managed for people on weekends and for cars on weekdays. During that time the People’s Alliance for Rock Creek (PARC) has advocated for “Rock Creek Park Seven Days a Week,” but time and again our proposals were rejected. Then, because of the Covid pandemic, in April, 2020 NPS converted the roadway into a full-time recreational “healthway,” and tens of thousands of residents came out for walking, running, cycling, dog-walking, stroller-pushing, wheelchairing, and more.

Now, with the pandemic subsiding, the Park Service is trying to decide how to move forward in the future – maintaining the Covid-period protocol, or returning to the old way, or splitting the difference.

When NPS asked the public for its views last year, more than 4,000 people responded, with 1,838 supporting full closure for recreation, and 343 asking for returning the roadway to vehicle use – that’s a ratio of 10 to 2. In other words, just on that factor, instead of being given three months, we should get 10.

But in fact we’re asking for all 12 months. (Keep in mind that this is for only four miles of Upper Beach Drive; the other 16 miles of roadway in the park will be left as they are.) We feel that the Park Service did not do an adequate job of analyzing either the detrimental damage to the park of auto traffic or the public benefits of year-round recreation. We also feel that the cited studies of minimal outside-the-park traffic impacts are not given appropriate weight in the decision.

Take Action

The People’s Alliance for Rock Creek (PARC) and other organizations will shortly be submitting formal and detailed comments on the NPS plan. (The letter is being written right now and will be posted on the web page: waba.org/PARC.)

At the same time, it is vital that the National Park Service hear from individual park users like yourself.  Click Here to submit your comments (scroll down to “Comment Now” near the bottom).

Among other things, here are some topics that you can talk about:

  • How you personally use—and want to use—the park on weekdays
  • The impact that allowing cars onto upper Beach Drive will have for your comfort, safety, and access to Beach Drive and other parts of Rock Creek Park during spring, winter, and fall
  • Your opinion about summertime-only recreation versus spring, fall and winter use of Beach Drive
  • How you use Beach Drive with friends and family
  • Your thoughts on park noise, air pollution, water pollution and other impacts from automobiles in the park that are not explored in the Environmental Assessment
  • Your perspective on how the impact of current or future automobile traffic in adjacent neighborhoods and streets should play into the NPS decision
  • Your thoughts on speed limits, speed bumps and other traffic management on Beach Drive
  • Your thoughts on the accessibility of the group picnic sites on Beach Drive (which are not affected by the road closure).
  • Other ideas you have for improving Beach Drive and Rock Creek Park

Thank you for everything you have already done. Together, we have demonstrated to the city and to the Park Service that Rock Creek Park is a beloved space for tens of thousands of people and that we will do anything to make it even better. Make sure you submit a written comment by August 11th.

For more information about PARC’s position, see this recent press release.

And this additional background information:

The link to submit a comment is HERE.

In its Environmental Assessment, NPS attached a 50-page study of the effect of a road restriction on automobile traffic outside the park, but it devoted no study to its effect on people’s health and recreation inside the park. This is why they need to hear your comments loud and clear.