Rendering of K Street busway, by Newlands & Company.

DC has a plan on the books to reconfigure K Street, creating a dedicated, physically separated bus lane in each direction. The original “K Street Transitway” study happened in 2004, but there’s been little to no progress since. DC Councilmembers including Jim Graham periodically ask about it, and the Downtown BID thinks it’s a high priority, but there’s still no money. Now, according to the National Capital Region Long-Range Transportation Plan updates announced on January 15th, the K Street Transitway was just delayed seven more years. Instead of money first coming in 2010, we’ll have to wait until at least 2017 to begin the project.

The preferred alternative would eliminate K Street’s side access-and-parking roadways from Washington Circle to Mount Vernon Square. Instead, the project would create dedicated bus lanes in the center, separated from general traffic by medians on both sides. Bus stations and fare machines would be located in the medians. The Circulator could use this, along with Metrobuses that run on K Street. (The recent service evaluation for the D buses recommends using the Transitway). DC could add tracks under to the transit lanes for streetcars in the future.

Luckily, the other regional projects recently delayed by more than five years in the NCR Long-Term Transportation Plan are primarily freeway widening proposals. Regional bike, pedestrian, and transit plans appear largely on course, except for the many transit cuts Maryland and Virginia have recently made and WMATA faces soon. This fall’s federal transportation reauthorization could change the math on funding, giving DC money to build the Transitway. Otherwise, we’ll have to suffer through slow bus service on K Street for almost another decade.

Joey Katzen is an entrepreneur and attorney who previously lived in Arlington, Virginia.  A native of the Commonwealth, he hopes our public and private sectors can work together to continue transforming each of our neighborhoods into attractive places we can be proud of.