Public Input Sought on H St. Transportation

Posted June 18, 2003 at 1:37pm

City officials kicked off a six-month transportation study of H Street Northeast designed to complement current revitalization efforts along the 1.5-mile corridor at a public meeting Wednesday.

The District Department of Transportation’s approximately $300,000 study — carried out in conjunction with consultants from Michael Baker Corp. — aims to pinpoint the transportation, parking, pedestrian and streetscape needs of the neighborhood.

The study is the first step in a three-part effort to revamp the corridor’s transportation system, which will also include design and implementation/construction phases.

Ward 6 Transportation Planner Rachel MacCleery said the District had earmarked around $7 million to implement the recommendations that emerge from the study — a figure, she cautioned, which does not take into account the cost of transit improvements currently being examined by the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority.

MacCleery estimated that a transportation overhaul of the street would not be complete for two to three years after the study concludes in January 2004, with features such as the possible construction of a trolley line at least 10 years in the future.

In the short-term, she said, DDOT could potentially complete lower-cost improvements such as retiming traffic lights and re-striping crosswalks.

The D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities, currently in the process of selecting local artists to create artistic, commercial signs for the corridor, has set aside $80,000 to $100,000 in fiscal 2004 for a site-specific artwork for the area. The commission plans to work with DDOT and the consultants to “help identify where some of these otherwise standard elements can be enhanced to help create a distinctive identity for the neighborhood,” said Art in Public Places Coordinator Sherry Schwechten, referring to features such as park benches, trash cans and lampposts.

After the meeting, attendees broke into groups to discuss what changes they would like to see implemented. District officials compiled their suggestions — which ranged from a traffic circle with green space and artwork at the point where Bladensburg and Benning roads meet Maryland and Florida avenues, to widening the sidewalks and adding more rush-hour parking along the corridor — on large maps for the city’s consideration.

Attendees generally expressed support for the overhaul, with some reservations given the project’s incipient stage.

“I’m excited,” said Laverne Law, a nearly 25-year resident of the H Street Northeast neighborhood. “I’ve seen ’em give us promises before, so I’m hoping this one will go through.”

DDOT will host a community walk along H Street from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday to elicit public input on the transportation needs of the corridor. Comments will be compiled into an existing conditions report due for release in September. Participants should meet at the entrance of the Capital Children’s Museum at Third and H streets Northeast. The district will also host two community charrettes later this fall, as well as two additional public meetings before the end of the year. For more information about the study, go to ddot.dc.gov.