After several years of redesign, DC seems ready to transform C Street NE from a commuter thoroughfare to a calmer road with more space for people walking, bicycling, and taking transit. In May, the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) presented its final design, which will add protected bike facilities, reduce car lanes, and increase green space and elements to protect pedestrians such as curb extensions and raised crosswalks, among other changes designed to rebalance the street’s use and safety.
The C Street NE project has taken a long time. Residents were organizing for a safer C Street back in 2009 and there were concept plans in 2010. The District Department of Transportation (DDOT) did a detailed study in 2015, turning into engineering designs, but surprised residents with a sudden backtrack last year. The 65% complete design removed many of the elements residents had been excited about.
DDOT put those elements back, and got to work on the next phase of more detailed design. At the time, the final design was supposed to be completed in August 2018.
Bus stops and bike lanes have moved
One of the biggest changes is that the bus stops on the south side of C Street are moved from the east to the west side of 19th and 21st streets. As a result, the bus stop at 19th Street is slightly smaller and the protected bike lanes are shifted. At 21st Street, this moves the bus pad out of the travel lane so stopped buses won’t block traffic, resulting in a smaller bumpout on the southeast side of the street.
This moves the bike crossing from the west to the east side too. Moving the bike lane shortens the crossing distance for cyclists, but requires a modification to the northeast corner to create a turn lane for them. In the same area, the bike lane on 19th Street that was installed after the project began is now shown, and an additional accessible parking space for people with disabilities is included there too.
Pressed on the protective elements of the bike lanes at an ANC 6A meeting on May 11, DDOT Director Jeff Marootian stated, “They will be immovable barriers. They will not be flex posts.”
Sidewalks shifted and green buffer was removed
Another significant change deals with where the north protected bikeway and sidewalk switch places on the west side of C. In the old design, that happened at the west alley between 15th and 16th, but now that happens at 16th Street, which makes more sense.
On the northeast side of 16th, the bike lane alignment was reverted back to the original 65% design. This creates a path that’s straighter but also closer to traffic.
The sidewalk alignment was changed to create a direct path to the existing sidewalk on the east side of 16th Street, for which some green buffer had to be removed. More green buffer was removed on the northwest side so that the parking would be in line with the sidewalk, instead of at an angle.
Changes to crosswalks and parking spaces
Another change to the protected bikeway in the area deals with the lane for southbound bike traffic at 16th Street. In the old design, a break in the median at North Carolina Avenue allowed bike traffic to go all the way south across the area on 16th. Now that break is gone, which forces cyclists to go southwest on North Carolina. In addition, the pedestrian crosswalk across the lane from C to North Carolina is gone and that lane will be painted green.
Other smaller changes have been made in the final design as well. At 17th Street, the crosswalk on the south side of C is straighter, a change which addresses concerns from ANC 6A, but to do so, the bus stop at 17th had to be narrowed a little.
On the northeast corner of 17th, a parking space was removed to create a clear path in front of the bus stop. Four parking spaces were removed from the south side of C between 15th and 14th and throughout the design, space that originally counted for 38 parking spaces is now labelled as 30, even though it is the same amount of space. Finally, designers added a bike box in front of the northbound 15th street lanes at North Carolina.
Let’s get this street updated already!
The ANC meeting featured several challenges from commissioners and residents on various road safety issues in the area, including Florida Ave and the streetcar tracks. Audience member (and former ANC 6C Commissioner) Robb Dooling reflected on District government’s response to recent tragedies, and wondered allowed if it would take a death on C Street NE to increase the urgency of the project.
Marootian acknowledged the delay. “It’s hard for me to say this project has been moving forward aggressively when you have been expecting it for years. The good news is that this project is now fully funded,” he said, adding that DDOT would be reviewing safety-enhancement options to apply while the project is completed. That’s good news for many area residents (including me) who are eager to see this new design go into effect.