The Connecticut Avenue Redesign
It is critical that we hear and address concerns as we work through the important design phase of the Concept C proposal for Connecticut Avenue. I would like to see Concept C implemented but am also deeply committed to addressing concerns that have been raised, and have been and will be devoting substantial time and effort to hearing those concerns and exploring solutions.
Since the early 2000’s, there has been a strong desire to improve safety on Connecticut Avenue and make greater use of pedestrian-friendly, environmentally sustainable transportation. All those supporting Concept C which included safety improvements that have already been implemented such as removing the reversible lane and lowering the speed limit, and bike lanes on both sides of Connecticut Avenue —24 out of 28 ANC Commissioners, all nine Democratic candidates in the Primary for Council, and Councilmember Cheh, the Mayor and DDOT– recognized that the details of the final design will be key to improving safety on the avenue for pedestrians, cyclists, transit users and drivers.
In recent months, significant numbers of residents have expressed reservations about the plan raising concerns about impacts on seniors, persons with disabilities and small businesses. It is very important that these serious concerns be addressed. DDOT has committed to do grapple with such issues as it develops its design. I will hold DDOT to that commitment and insist on continued transparency and inclusion in that process.
Indeed, as a step in that process, DDOT conducted block-by-block walks to solicit input on existing conditions and concerns from nearby neighbors and other interested persons about the proposed plan. I participated in the three walks through the course of which over 16 hours (with breaks) we worked our way from Calvert north to Legation.
DDOT got valuable input about the specific needs of businesses and various apartment buildings. We poked around alleys and side streets to explore parking and loading options. There were bike lane proponents and opponents on both the walks so far and no doubt will be on the third. All were forced to confront the kinds of concerns raised by our neighbors who are skeptical of the plan. And, creative ideas were put on the table to address various concerns for consideration by DDOT in the final design.
These walks will be just one step in what DDOT claims will be an extensive process of public engagement in the design phase. DDOT has done much public engagement in the concept development and review stage. As new stakeholders have come to the table, it is critical that they too be heard in the all-important design phase.
It was clear on the walks that there are many aspects of the Concept Plan that will require reconsideration and/or refinement. Working through processes like this one in the effort to build as broad a consensus as possible has been a strength of mine through my years of public service. I will draw on my skills to listen, look for sensible solutions, ensure all feel heard and their views respected. And, I will push DDOT be a responsive partner working to incorporate constructive suggestions that can improve the plan.
There is a lot of work to do on this project. The design process is likely to last upwards of a year. We are at the start of this phase. My goal is to make the ultimate Connecticut Avenue redesign work for the good of residents, businesses, pedestrians, cyclists, children, seniors, people with disabilities and the natural environment that we share.